Alison J. Clarke is a design historian and a trained social anthropologist. She joined the University of Applied Arts Vienna as a full-professor having previously held a senior faculty post at the Royal College of Art, London. In 2010, she was appointed Director of the Victor J. Papanek Foundation heading the biennial symposia in contemporary design theory. Professor Clarke has supervised design and material culture at undergraduate and postgraduate level
for over twenty years, previous students having taken up major roles in curatorship, academia and design.
Her research uniquely combines historical and anthropological methodology, placing her work at the forefront of explorations in Design Anthropology and resulting in several major ethnographies in design, including co-research with Professor Daniel Miller (UCL) which framed debates within material culture and consumption studies. Her monograph Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America charted the inception and distribution of an everyday design technology and was optioned for a USA Emmy Award nominated film-documentary titled ‘Tupperware!’ Editor of the anthology Design Anthropology: Object Culture in the 21st Century (Springer 2011), she is currently completing a second edited volume Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition with Bloomsbury Press and finishing a monograph for MIT Press exploring 1970s design activism.
Professor Clarke is a recipient of several competitive fellowships (Smithsonian, Hagley & Winterthur, Botstiber) and has led several major international research projects, most recently Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
As co-founder and co-editorial manager of Home Cultures: Architecture, Design and Domestic Space, she is advisory board member of the Journal of Consumer Culture, and Material World (NYU) and panel member on numerous academic research juries including the Danish Council for Independent Research in the Humanities and Swiss National Science Foundation.
Alison has delivered keynote addresses at major international conferences, most recently NORDES (Stockholm 2015), Design Anthropological Futures (Copenhagen 2015) and Design Culture: Object Discipline, Practice (Kolding 2014). Co-curator with Fiona Raby and Jamer Hunt of the critically acclaimed exhibition How Things Don’t Work: The Dreamspace of Victor Papanek at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Centre New York (2014), and co-director of the film SLOW (2013) with artist David Bickerstaff, Alison contributes regularly to a range of international media including the award winning BBC television series ‘The Genius of Design.’