Dr Elspeth Mitchell

Dr Elspeth Mitchell


My work explores practices and theories of feminism and visual culture. In October 2021 I joined the school as the Griselda Pollock Legacy Lecturer. Prior to joining the school I was Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC funded project Fabulous Femininities: Extravagant Costume and Transformative Thresholds. I have also held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art and was Research Associate in Practices and Theories of Feminism and Art at Loughborough University with Professor Hilary Robinson.

Foregrounding collaboration as political imperative, my research activities and cultural projects 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.

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.

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, which provides a translingual space to explore feminist, queer and anti-racist thought, art and pedagogy.

Research interests

I have published in the areas of feminist philosophy, girls’ studies, performance art and theory, feminist digital art history, artist’s moving image and cinema. I am currently writing my first monograph Girl, Movement, Image developed from my doctoral research. My doctoral thesis, completed in 2018, was an in-depth study of ‘the Girl’ and moving image artworks. The Girl—capitalised to mark it as a conceptual question, not an age, stage or designation—was examined as a dimension of feminine subjectivity that amplifies but also challenges feminist thought and aesthetic practices. In the thesis the Girl was addressed as a question, specifically posed to a text by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986), and artworks by two artists/filmmakers, Chantal Akerman (1950–2015) and Eija-Liisa Ahtila (b.1959). The three case studies identified a clear historical shift of thinking the feminine at the intersection with significant technological changes, and also argued that the Girl is not merely a stage in life but has a distinct form of temporality that can be suspended and examined through 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. 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. 

I am co-investigator of a three-year digital humanities project Feminist Art Making Histories (with Professor Hilary Robinson, Dr Tina Kinsella and Dr Amy Tobin) funded by the AHRC and IRC. The project will record, curate and archive oral histories of those engaged in art and feminism in the UK and Ireland from the 1970s onwards.

With Dr Lenka Vráblíková, I am engaged in a project examining the role forests, mushrooms and their foragers have played in the cultural and political imagination of European heteropatriarchal coloniality. Part of this includes Out of Office, which began as a feminist reading and mushroom foraging walk in 2017. 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. In autumn 2021 we curated a series Mycorrhizal Encounters conversations with artists, activists, and researchers who work with the versatility of fungi and the resourcefulness of mycorrhizal communities.

<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>