Audra Mitchell (she/her or they/them) holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Political Ecology at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and is cross-appointed to the Departments of Political Science at WLU and UW. From 2015-18, Audra held the CIGI Chair in Global Governance and Ethics at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Professor Mitchell has previously worked at the University of York, UK (2010-15) and the University of St. Andrews, UK (2009-10), and has held visiting scholarships at the Universities of Queensland (Australia) and Edinburgh (UK). Audra completed a PhD in Politics and International Studies at the Queen’s University of Belfast, UK (2009).
Throughout her career, Audra’s work has made important interdisciplinary contributions across the fields of international studies, global and international environmental studies, international theory, security studies, the environmental humanities, human geography and more. Highlights include seminal contributions to more-than-human discourses of international theory, security and ethics; bringing global ecological thought into conversation with diverse Indigenous ecological knowledges; creating futurisms rooted in the knowledge and lived experience of currently-marginalized groups; and developing unique violence-informed and anti-colonial approaches to international intervention.
Professor Mitchell has published four books and special journal editions, over thirty-five journal articles and book chapters, and led a grant portfolio of over $2 million, including several international partnerships and networks.
Professor Mitchell is a disabled (Autistic and Dyspraxic) scholar who draws from lived experience in understanding patterns of violence, exclusion and marginalization and is working to foreground disabled/crip and Autistic knowledges and ways of knowing.
Audra is a settler of Ukrainian and British descent living and working as an uninvited intergenerational guest on the lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples.
Active research projects:
Audra is currently working on projects related to a series of linked themes:
Extinction, bioplurality and global structural violence (2015-2023)
This body of work re-frames global patterns of plant and animal extinctions (known to Western science as ‘the Sixth Mass Extinction”) as expressions of global structural violence. Audra’s solo work on this theme highlights the role of multiple, mutually-supporting forms of violence – including land-based sexual and gendered violence, settler colonialism, extraction and genocide – in driving patterns of extinction. It also offers an alternative framework, (bio)plurality, for understanding and protecting difference across global eco-political systems. Diverging from dominant ideas of ‘biodiversity’, which emphasize universalist forms of difference, generic processes and interchangeability of ‘function’, (bio)plurality focuses on how radically different beings co-constitute one another to create, sustain and transform singular worlds. Audra’s work shows that global structures of violence attack conditions of (bio)plurality and the futures they nurture and that efforts to address extinction must confront these structures of violence. Since 2015, Audra has also led multiple international collaborations with Indigenous communities in Canada, Australia, the USA and the Pacific. This work has involved cross-community sharing of experiences and knowledge ecological violence, rooted in land- and community-based work to restore relationships with plants, animals, water, land, air and Ancestors.
Worlding beyond ‘the’ end of ‘the’ world (2018-)
As ecological crises intensify, mainstream political, economic and public-scientific responses are becoming increasingly apocalyptic, as reflected discourses on ‘global catastrophic risks’ and ‘human extinction’. Within these all-or-nothing discourses, the survival of ‘humanity’ is made to appear contingent on supporting a comprehensive set of social, political and economic transformations. However, the dominant norm of ‘humanity’, and the visions of ‘good life’ it represents, is rooted in racist, ableist, heteronormative, colonial and anthropocentric assumptions, and entrenches existing structures of power. Strategies designed to protect ‘the’ future of ‘humanity’ – such as financial environmentalism, space colonization, the politics of ‘population’ and (neo-)eugenics – promise to widen inequalities, deepen exclusions and eliminate difference. Contesting these imaginaries through theoretical, speculative/experimental and research creation techniques, ‘Worlding Beyond the End of the World’ works to multiply possible futures, starting from the knowledge systems and lived experience of communities currently marginalized by racism, colonialism, ableism, heternormativity and anthropcentrism. Its aim is to amplify and elaborate these possible futures, and to imagine futures for and of (bio)plurality – especially for marginalized groups who are offered ‘no future’ by mainstream imaginaries. This project also provides theoretical nourishment to the other research streams described here.
Autistic Worlds and Ecologies (AWE, 2021-)
As global environmental crises intensify and multiply, diverse communities currently marginalized by racism, colonialism, ableism, heteronormativity and anthropocentrism are mobilizing in important ways to influence futuring processes. Autistic people are often sidelined from these efforts due to structural exclusions and, perhaps more importantly, cure-focused and eugenicist efforts to ensure that we quite literally have ‘no future’. However, a growing body of academic, artistic and grassroots culture shows that the Autistic community – which spans all ethnicities, genders, sexualities, age groups, classes and locations – produces and nurtures unique forms of ecological knowledge. This project seeks to scope out and amplify this knowledge, develop and elaborate techniques for Autistic ecological knowledge-making, and, through experimental research-creation practices, explore some of the ways that Autistic ecological knowledges can contribute to the imagination of inclusive, (bio)plural futures. At the same time, it seeks to strengthen and proliferate solidarities across marginalized communities in the collective effort to bring about these futures. To this end, it involves a comprehensive survive of Autistic eco-political culture, knowledge and history, and collaborations with Autistic ecological thinkers to develop and elaborate Autistic ecological methodologies and ways of knowing. It also involves collaborative research-creation practices, including the use of image and video, music/sound design and XR/augmented reality to explore in concrete ways how Autistic ecological knowledge and ways of knowing can contribute to vibrant, inclusive eco-political futures.
Making worlds, designing violence (2022-)
Design shapes every aspect of collective life and interaction with worlds and ecoystems, from food systems to built environments, ideas, experiences and ecosystems. In conditions of globalized capitalism, designers and design ideas increasingly influence interactions, social structures, possibilities of movement and the relationships between life forms. For these reasons, critical design thinking (and critical thinking about design) is crucial to imagining and creating just, inclusive, accessible and plural forms of order. At the same time, as proponents of social justice have long argued, various forms of violence – from physical to psychological and infrastructural – are wielded by and through design. As such, understanding how violence is designed – and how it can be designed against – is crucial to crafting plural worlds and futures. Meanwhile, making, including craft and the ‘handmade’, is often contrasted with the ‘high’ or ‘abstract’ realm of design and associated with resistance, hacking and other practices of disruption. It can engender and strengthen relationships with ecosystems and nonhumans, and encourage practice such as circularity and upcycling that reduce waste. However, the category of ‘makers’ and ‘making’ encompasses an immense range of identities, from Indigenous knowledge keepers preserving or reviving ancestral tradition to middle-class ‘craft capitalism’ or neo-frontierism rooted in racism and heteronormativity. As such, just like design, it can produce futures of greater inclusivity or deeper injustice. Examining the complexities and interactions of these two key modes of praxis and thought and taking them seriously as contributors to global eco-political order, this project asks critically how futures, ecosystems and worlds are – and could be – designed and made.