Dr Elspeth Mitchell


I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow working on the AHRC funded project Fabulous Femininities: Extravagant Costume and Transformative Thresholds. The project is an ethnographic and immersive study that seeks to understand the way that resistant feminine identities are performed by burlesque club-goers via specific DIY approaches to costume.  Before taking up this role I have held positions as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art and as Research Associate in Practices and Theories of Feminism and Art at Loughborough University. I completed my PhD in 2018 at the University of Leeds with a thesis on theories of ‘the Girl’ and the moving image in work by Simone de Beauvoir, Chantal Akerman and Eija-Liisa Ahtila supervised by Griselda Pollock.

From 2017-2020 I was producer for arts organisation Pavilion of Art School for Rebel Girls, a project rooted in feminist pedagogy, which developed from a series of collaborative creative workshops led for, with and by young women (13-16) in Leeds. Working with other invited artists and curators, we formed a collective intergenerational working group who make exhibitions, curate film screenings and produce other artistic and cultural activities together.

Foregrounding collaboration as political imperative, my research activities and cultural projects I have produced draw on radical pedagogies and feminist and decolonial practices of knowing. Although sometimes viewed as disconnected, these projects, such as developing a film programming collective with young women in Leeds or leading a mushroom foraging and feminist reading group, are in fact connected by a desire to foreground ways of knowing that are foreclosed or marginalised in culture, and doing this through an investment in alternative networks and collaboration.

Previously I have held the roles of Yorkshire editor for Corridor8, associate editor of parallax  and co-director of SPUR. I have worked with artists, perfomers, filmmakers, writers and theorists including Alex Martinis Roe, Helen de Main, Maria Fusco, Iris Zaki, Soofiya Andry, Jennifer Reeder and Luce Irigaray on screenings, reading groups, exhibitions and events across the country. In 2016, I co-founded Feminist Readings Network / Réseau Lectures Féministes, a multi-lingual network for early-career artists and researchers at the University of Leeds, University of Helsinki, University of South Africa and University of Paris 8.

Research interests

My doctoral research examined ‘the Girl’ as a concept, figure and problem for feminist theory and the moving image. Having proposed that the Girl is a problem for feminist theory and contributing to debates on the moving-image from a feminist perspective, my doctoral research concluded by circling around an issue present in the field of Girls’ Studies. Namely, that the Girl is a problem, in part at least, because girls do not write feminist philosophies, and, in general, do not make films of which they are the subject. The position of girls outside the texts which seek to write them haunts Girls’ Studies. This conclusion prompted me to undertake a three-year research-led arts engagement project, Art School for Rebel Girls, developed in collaboration with arts organisation Pavilion for which I was awarded a Public Engagement with Research Award. The project examined how creative pedagogies and collaborative working could be used to centre the agency of girls in arts education. 

In 2019-2020 I undertook a project on digital humanities, producing a co-authored chapter on feminist digital art history for the Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Art History. 

My other research interests include the intersection of feminism, ethnomycology and visual culture. This work, entitled Out of Office, began as a feminist reading and mushroom foraging walk in 2017 in collaboration with Dr Lenka Vráblíková (University of South Africa). The aim of these walks was to enable us and other participants to critically reflect on the conditions of feminist academic labour, through feminist readings and mushroom hunting. Ongoing work explores critical histories of womxn’s knowledge production; the entanglements of xenophobia, migration and mushrooms; practices of reading and environment; the politics of food and foraging and mushroom/mycelium networks. An article is forthcoming in Antennae journal and an exhibition is planned for 2021/2022.

2020, with Kathryn Brown ‘Feminist Digital Art History’ in Digital Humanities and Art History (Routledge)

2019, ‘To Be Born a Girl? Irigaray and Sexuate Difference’, in Towards a New Human Being, ed. by Luce Irigaray, Mahon O'Brien, Christos Hadjioannou (Palgrave Macmillan)

2018, with Ruth Daly, Gill Park, Lenka Vrablikova, Yelin Zhao, ‘A Feminist Space at Leeds: collective reflections on an “Event”’ in Griselda Pollock, from feminism to the concentrationary and beyond edited by Raluca Bibiri (Images Institul European)

2017, ‘The Girl and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex: Feminine Becomings’ Australian Feminist Studies 32, 93

2017, ‘More Than Just a Simple Refrain?’, Girlhood Studies, 10, 1, 130 133.

2015, ‘In Excess, Elsewhere and Otherwise: Feminine Subjectivity in Eija Liisa Ahtila’s multiscreen installation If 6 Was 9’, Networking Knowledge.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>