Audra Mitchell (she/her) is a settler of Ukrainian, Polish, Scottish and English Ancestry who was raised on unceded Musqueam and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh lands, and who lives on the Ancestral and Treaty lands of the Attawandaron (Neutral), Haudenosaunee and Mississaugas of the New Credit.
Audra currently holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Political Ecology at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Previously, she held the CIGI Chair in Global Governance and Ethics at the Balsillie School of International Affairs (2015-18). Audra has also previously worked at the University of York, UK (2010-15) and the University of St. Andrews, UK (2009-10). She completed her PhD at the Queen’s University of Belfast (2006-9), and she was a visiting scholar at the University of Queensland, Australia (2014).
Audra’s research, teaching and community engagement addresses global ecological harms through the lens of multi-scale structural violence. This includes increasing understanding the connections between ecological harms and ongoing global patterns of colonization, genocides, gendered and sexual violence and global capitalism. Audra’s unique approach integrates her background in violence studies, global ecological ethics, normative international and global theory (including decolonial studies, critical race theory, science and technology studies, and critical security studies). It engages with methods including decolonizing and Indigenous research methods, co-research and participant observation. Audra is and has been grateful to collaborate with and learn from knowledge keepers from Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee, Nêhiyaw, Dene, Yolngu, Gumbayngir, Yoeme, Kānaka Maoli and other knowledge systems.
Currently, Audra is leading projects and international collaborations in three main areas:
- “Decolonizing Against Extinction”: this project re-frames global patterns of plant and animal extinctions – increasingly known in Western science and popular culture as ‘the Sixth Mass Extinction” – as manifestations of multi-scale structural violence. Audra’s solo work in this area involves critiquing dominant Western scientific discourses on extinction. In particular, she broadens understandings of the ‘drivers’ of current patterns of extinction to include four global logics of violence: (settler) colonialism; land-based violence to bodies (including environmental racism and gendered and sexual violence); extractivism; and genocide. Instead of simply seeking to control, manage or ‘conserve’ species or ecosystems, this work suggests, the priority should be to dismantle these global structures of violence and to support the healing of the relations that co-create and sustain unique ecosystems. Audra is also leading a major international collaborative project on this subject. Centring co-research with Indigenous communities in several countries, this project works to support grassroots efforts – in particular those led by women, LGBTQ2S+ and youth – to restore ecological relationships and to build direct connections between communities and knowledge systems.
- “Fibre futures and textile sovereignties”: Audra’s new project examines the convergence within the global textile industry of multiple systems of oppression (including super-exploitation, exposure to toxins and colonial and racialized patterns of land tenure and access) and ecological harms (such as large-scale toxification, soil degradation, water depletion and the destruction of ecosystems). Global textile systems produce 1.2 billion tons of emissions each year, create 35% of global microplastic pollution and are the second-largest industrial consumer of water. They rely on unsustainable forms of agriculture, patterns of global trade that entrench inequalities and concentrate ecological harms and the fossil fuel industry, human rights abuses, environmental racism and unjust land distribution. In addition, these systems lock marginalized communities into relationships of co-oppression, in which they must rely on products and systems that harm similarly oppressed groups. This project works to diagnose and contest these structures, and to support, grow and connect alternative fibre systems, in particular those led by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). Instead of seeking to integrate alternative fibre practices within existing economies and social structures, this project aims to build fibre sovereignties – systems that increase access to textiles that honour each community’s knowledge systems; restore relations with particular plants, animals, lands and waters; enhance access to land, food and medicines; and strengthen self-governance.
- “Worlds beyond ‘the end of the world’: confronting white apocalyptic imaginaries”: Audra’s third current area of research involves interrogating discourses of global-ecological collapse that, while claiming to be concerned with the survival and flourishing of ‘humanity’, actually entrench and promote deeply racialized narratives that work to protect whiteness and the power structures in which it is embedded. The imaginaries found in these ‘mainstream’ discourses often involve authoritarian measures such as global population control; the surveillance and policing of BIPOC bodies and their non-human kin; forms of ‘conservation’ and environmental interventions that displace and expropriate BIPOC and their nonhuman kin; climate narratives that demand the further concentration of political-economic power within existing structures; and the criminalization of BIPOC communities resisting these measures. Engaging with plural BIPOC futurisms, and centring collaborations with scholars and practitioners working in those fields, this project works to contest white apocalyptic discourses and to open up more space for the flourishing of alternative futures.
Audra’s other work, including her previous research, has engaged with subjects such as: the ethics of outer space colonization and Indigenous laws regarding outer space; the global ethics of micro-plastic pollution; the security of nonhumans; Western secular modes of violence; and de-/post-colonial responses to international interventions. In 2015, she co-founded the ‘Creatures Collective’, an international group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, activists and artists who work to challenge colonial accounts of extinction; to develop methods for working ethically across knowledge systems and species; and to support rising Indigenous and BIPOC researchers. Audra is also the co-founder of the Research Cluster for Indigenous Peoples, Decolonization and the Globe at the Balsillie School of International Affairs.
Audra currently has research opportunities for students working in the following fields:
- Global ecological harms
- Ecological dimensions of structural violence
- Decolonization and BIPOC knowledge systems, political and legal orders, especially in relation to ecological harms
- Extinction and global conservation systems
- Global textile industry and alternative fibre systems
- Anti-racist, BIPOC futurist and other alternative ecological futurisms