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Dorothy Armstrong


  • Dorothy Armstrong
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities


    Visiting Lecturer

  • Dorothy is a Visiting Lecturer on the History of Design MA. Together with Sarah Teasley, she teaches the course Material Histories of Asia, exploring the global interactions of South. East, and Central Asia and the Middle East, through their material culture. With Spike Sweeting, she teaches first year MA students in the course Theory, Skills and Methods, helping students develop as historians and seminars entitled Key Concepts, introducing MA students to the most important thinkers in the field.

  • Biography

  • Dorothy is a historian of material culture and writer, with a particular interest in the textiles of West, Central and South Asia. She is currently completing her PhD in the RCA/V&A History of Design Programme, entitled What is an ‘Oriental’ Carpet: the Euro-American ideology of the rugs of South, Central and West Asia since 1840.

    Her first degree was from the University of Cambridge, in English Literature. After a career as a management consultant, she returned to full-time education in 2011, taking a Diploma in Islamic Art, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Distinction). In  2014 she received an MA in History of Design, at the Royal College of Art and Victoria and Albert Museum (Distinction).

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  • Practice

  • Dorothy is interested in the values attributed to objects by groups outside their areas of indigenous production, and often finds herself in a position of challenge to them.

    Her current work on ‘oriental’ carpets is an example of this, taking a contrarian view of the Euro-American hierarchy of Asian carpets created in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is situated within global design history, a discipline focused on transgeographical and transcultural movements of objects, materials, ideas, techniques, and people. The theoretical approaches she uses include orientalist and post-colonial analysis, and thinking on discourse, agency and cultural capital.

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  • External collaborations

  • Mentor to History of Design MA students participating in an experiment in computer-learning, led by Professor Armand Leroi of Imperial College, London, 2018. The experiment used the V&A’s collection of Iznik tiles as part of its data. 

    Advisor to London Iranian Association on National Lottery Heritage Fund film ‘ The Persian Carpet in Britain’, and contributor to film, 2017–2018

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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Publications

    Armstrong, D. forthcoming 2020, ‘A transnational and transcultural loop: Pakistan’s repossession of the ‘oriental’ carpet and its imaginary’, Circulating Crafts, Art, Agency and the Making of Identities, Noemie Etienne and Yaelle Biro eds. Berlin: De Gruyter

    Armstrong, D. forthcoming, 'Turkish Rugs and Carpets' Encyclopedia of Asian Design, London and New York: Berg/ Bloomsbury

    Armstrong, D. 2018, ‘King Faisal’s Hat: a Case-Study in Creolisation’, in English and Chinese, Yun Wang trans., Zhuangshi, 304 (August 2018) pp 66–73

    Armstrong, D. 2018, 'Disney at the Ashmolean', Prova: RCA Arts and Humanities Research Journal, pp 62–67

    Armstrong, D. 2014, Unravelling the Carpet: Oriental Carpets in ‘The International Exhibition of Persian Art’, 1931, ‘The World of Islam Festival’, 1976, and ‘Turks’, 2005. MA Dissertation, RCA/V&A

    Armstrong, D. 2013, 'Synthetic Dyes in Persian Carpets of the 19th Century', Oxford Asian Textiles Journal, (November, 2013)

    Conference and colloquium papers    

    Armstrong, D. 2018, A transgeographical and transcultural loop: Pakistan's repossession of the 'oriental' carpet and its imaginary, British Institute of Middle Eastern Studies Conference, King's College London, June 2018

    Armstrong, D. 2017, Repossessing the 'oriental ' carpet imaginary, Transpositions Summer School: ‘Sensible Objects, Material Engagement, Skilled Expertise’, Universities of Bern, Lucerne, Utrecht, and ERC Artechne,  Utrecht, August 2017

    Armstrong, D. 2017, The Templeton Archive: University of Glasgow, Unpacking the Archive colloquium, Brighton University and RCA, March 2017

    Armstrong, D. 2014, The Afterlives of the Ardabil Carpet in the West, Symposia Iranica, Pembroke College, Cambridge, May 2017 and European Association for Asian Art, Olomuc, 2014

    Armstrong, D. 2013, The introduction of synthetic dyes into 19th century Persian carpets, Oxford Asian Textiles Group, October 2013

    Armstrong, D. 2013, Dyes, Carpets, Class and Taste, Fashion and Textile Design colloquium, University of Brighton, June 2013

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  • Awards and Grants

  • (2017–2018) Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah Scholarship, British Institute of Middle Eastern Studies award for innovative postgraduate research in Middle-Eastern studies 

    (2016) V&A Gardner Fund Travel Grant to support Ph.D. Research 

    (2016–2019) Nicholas Berwin Charitable Trust award for innovative postgraduate research in the arts 

    (2013) Wainwright Prize for Academic Achievement, RCA/V&A History of Design MA

Selected work


Current and recent research

Current research focus is on so-called oriental carpets, and their use in support of  European and North American systems of power, value and taste during 19th and 20th centuries. Dorothy's  Ph.D. is entitled What is an ‘Oriental’ Carpet: the Euro-American ideology of the rugs of South, Central and West Asia since 1840. Her MA dissertation thesis analysed the orthodoxy underlying the choice of objects for three major exhibitions of Islamic art in Britain in the 20th century.