Audra Mitchell (she/her) is a settler of Ukrainian, Polish, Scottish and English ancestry, currently living and working on the Ancestral and Treaty lands of the Attawandaron (Neutral), Haudenosaunee (Six Nations of the Grand River) and Anishinaabe (Mississaugas of the New Credit) peoples.
Prof. Mitchell holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Political Ecology at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. From 2015-18, she held the CIGI Chair in Global Governance and Ethics at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Audra has previously worked at the University of York, UK (2010-15) and the University of St. Andrews, UK (2009-10), and in 2014 she was a visiting scholar at the Universities of Queensland (Australia) and Edinburgh (UK). Audra completed her PhD at the Queen’s University of Belfast, UK (2009).
Prof. Mitchell has published four books and special journal editions, over thirty journal articles and book chapters, and has led a grant portfolio of over $2 million, including several international partnerships and networks.
Prof. Mitchell’s vibrant, multi-disciplinary program of research addresses global ecological harms through the lens of multi-scale structural violence, grounded in active engagement with currently-marginalized, multi-species communities. For example, her work examines the relationships between complex harms such as plant and animal extinctions, climate change and pollution and structures of violence such as colonization, racism, gendered violence and genocide. Audra’s unique approach weaves together her background in violence studies, global theory, political ecology and anti-oppression theory (including decolonial, Indigenous, BIPOC, queer, more-than-human, and critical disability studies). Her recent work is indebted to collaboration and co-creation with Indigenous and BIPOC scholars, knowledge keepers and communities in Canada, Australia, the United States and elsewhere. Audra has also been active in developing research communities committed to mentoring, amplifying and supporting emerging researchers from currently-marginalized communities.
Prof. Mitchell is a neurodivergent (Autistic and Dyspraxic) scholar. Her work actively engages neurodivergent methods and forms of knowledge, and she is committed to critiquing ableist forms of violence in and beyond academia, including by building solidarities across marginalized communities.
Current and emerging research streams:
- (bio)plurality: this project re-frames global patterns of plant and animal extinctions (known to Western science as ‘the Sixth Mass Extinction”) as expressions of multi-scale structural violence. Audra’s work in this area critiques the racialized, colonial-capitalist roots of mainstream notions of ‘extinction’, ‘biodiversity’ and ‘conservation’, and the futures they seek to secure. It also examines their links to forms of multi-scale structural violence such as genocide, extreme extraction, land-based sexual violence and land-grabbing. Audra’s most recent book, (bio)plurality (University of Minnesota Press), shows how these forms of violence target the conditions of co-constitution that produce vibrant ecosystems. Drawing from diverse Indigenous ethical, ecological, political and philosophical perspectives, it calls for efforts to defend and nourish the diverse multi-life-form political orders and singular-plural worlds in which earthly life flourishes.
- “Decolonizing Against Extinction” (with Kate Lloyd, Sandie Suchet-Pearson, Sarah Wright and Noah Theriault): Audra is leading a major international collaborative project with Indigenous communities in Canada, Australia and the USA, supported by formal partnerships with universities in all three countries. This project brings together participants from diverse communities to share experiences of the ecological effects of colonization – in particular, their role in driving plant and animal extinctions. The goal of this project is to create sustainable structures for the the direct sharing of knowledge, the formation of solidarities and visioning of flourishing futures across participating communities. Through a series of events, this project has created opportunities for relationship-building, direct knowledge-sharing, land-based co-creation activities and cross-community research projects. It involves a strong focus on youth/emerging scholars and knowledge-keepers, and intergenerational knowledge transmission.
- “Fibre futures and textile sovereignties”:In many currently-marginalized communities, land-based, culturally-specific textile systems and practices (textile sovereignties) are important ways of caring for plants, animals, water and land, nourishing culture and resisting political-economic oppression. In contrast, the global textile industry has forcibly transformed global eco-political and economic conditions, driving colonization, enslavement, industrialization, de-industrialization and globalization over several centuries. It is currently responsible for 10% of world carbon emissions and 35% of global microplastic pollution, consuming 80 billion cubic gallons of freshwater per year, driving soil depletion, and reliant on extreme extraction, land-grabbing and unfree labour. ‘Fibre Futures and Textile Sovereignties’ critiques global textile systems as expressions of contemporary multi-scaleeco-political violence. It engages with efforts by currently-marginalized communities to resist the forms of violence engendered by these systems and to cultivate textile sovereignties. In particular, it examines the role of community-based forms of technique, design and land-based practice in realizing more just and flourishing futures. Centering research-creation methods (e.g. weaving, dyeing, spinning, knitting, planting and foraging) it aims to connect, innovate and amplify community-based efforts to transform not only global textile systems but also broader global relations of eco-political violence.
- “Worlds beyond ‘the end of the world’: this emerging research stream confronts popular, scientific and governmental imaginaries of ‘global catastrophic risk’, including ‘human extinction’. Claiming to safeguard ‘the’ (singular) future of ‘humanity’, these narratives entrench racializing, colonial, anthropocentric, gendered/heteronormative and ableist power structures and political currents. These include: the quantification, surveillance and control of BIPOC, gendered and disabled bodies; environmental interventions based on the expropriation of land; and the criminalization of resistance to eco-political violence (such as extreme extraction and environmental racism). Directly contesting these future imaginaries, “Worlds Beyond the End of the World” involves theory-building and collaborative research-creation with BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+ and disabled scholars, with a focus on imagining, co-designing and realizing alternative futures.
Prof. Mitchell’s previous research has made significant contributions to several areas of international and global theory, including more-than-human global ethics; space colonization and Indigenous outer space law; Western secular cultures of violence; and critical, decolonial and post-colonial approaches to peacebuilding and international intervention.
Audra currently has research opportunities available for students and community-based researchers interested in any of the research streams outlined above. Researchers with lived experience of marginalization are particularly encouraged to connect.