Audra Mitchell

Canada Research Chair in Global Political Ecology

Tier 2 - 2018-01-01
Wilfrid Laurier University
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council


Research involves

Uncovering the link between colonialism and global patterns of extinction, and studying the potential of decolonization and Indigenous resurgence to address these harms.

Research relevance

This research will change how we view global patterns of extinction and demonstrate that decolonization is necessary to fight them.

Decolonizing as a Way to Prevent Global Extinction

The extinction of plants and animals around the globe isn’t just a negative side effect of modernization or climate change. It is a direct expression of violence.

As Canada Research Chair in Global Political Ecology, Dr. Audra Mitchell is challenging mainstream beliefs by suggesting that global patterns of plant and animal extinctions embody forms of ongoing colonial violence that extend across the planet.

Mitchell is collaborating with Indigenous thinkers, researchers and community organizers around the world to show how decolonization and the dismantling of structural violence are essential in combatting what scientists call the sixth mass extinction (a theory that contends there has been a “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades).

Most mainstream conservation strategies focus on addressing causes such as climate change, direct killing, habitat destruction, and the transportation of living things around the planet. But many of these approaches rely on, and even extend, colonial forms of governance, such as placing restrictions on hunting, gathering and burning practices.

Mitchell’s work shows that unless our response to global extinction addresses embedded structures of violence, these strategies will not be effective and may even perpetuate oppression, causing more harm.

What’s more, many other knowledge systems interpret the term “extinction” itself as the breaking of relationships, laws and protocols between groups of humans and other beings. By learning from Indigenous communities that are engaged in repairing these relationships, Mitchell hopes to highlight alternative responses to address global extinction.