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Dr Elsa Noterman

Junior Research Fellow and Director of Studies for Geography at Queens’ College



  • PhD Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), 2020
  • MS Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), 2014
  • BA Political Science, Haverford College (USA), 2006

Awards and Fellowships

  • American Association of Geographers Urban Geography Specialty Group Dissertation Award, 2020
  • Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2018-19
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship, 2014-18
  • University Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013-14 & 2017-18
  • Olmstead Award for Outstanding Citizenship Award, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016-17 & 2017-18
  • Institute for Legal Studies’ Law and Society Graduate Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
  • Olmstead Award for Outstanding Publication, Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
  • Chancellor’s Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012-2013


My research program includes the following overlapping trajectories:

(Il)legal geographies of property and the commons

My research primarily focuses on collective struggles over access to land and housing at the margins of proprietary regimes in the United States. I am interested in how these contestations highlight both the limits of liberal property law and practice, and the challenges of commoning under the threat of enclosure. My recent work examines how the use of “vacant” land and buildings in the city of Philadelphia reinforces and destabilizes normative notions of urban development and property, including through (il)legal taking of land to meet community needs (see Urban Geography 2020), speculative (counter) cartographies of urban vacancy (see Transactions 2021), and legal counterclaims to urban commons (see Environment and Planning D 2021). In addition to an additional article in process, I am currently working on a monograph in which I consider how ‘vacant’ geographies highlight both the interface of settler colonial and racial capitalist logics in the development of U.S. cities, and the ways that spatio-legal forms of collective resistance undermine these logics. Finally, I have started a new project which examines the management and disposal of ‘surplus’ U.S. federal property for ‘public benefit,’ specifically in relation to houselessness. I presented initial findings at the 2021 Royal Geographical Society Conference.

Reimagining housing crises

In a second related area of research, I explore community responses to housing ‘crisis.’ This work includes research examining the development of limited equity housing cooperatives by manufactured housing (or ‘mobile home’) communities facing eviction, and the multiple and conflictual ways cooperative members understand and interact with the commons (what I call ‘differential commoning’) (Antipode 2016). I am also part of a feminist mapping collective that is exploring the relationship between houselessness and property vacancy, and related housing activism in the context of Covid-19, in 25 major U.S. cities (Guerrilla Cartography forthcoming).

Local geographies of land justice

In a third trajectory, I explore questions of justice and repair in relation to land use and access. In a project funded by the city of Madison, Wisconsin, I worked in collaboration with a local artist and community groups to produce a series of racial justice and decolonial public art maps related to historic and contemporary use of city space (for example, Human Geography 2020). I am currently developing a project with a colleague at Vanderbilt University that attends to local reparative geographies in US cities, and how they influence and are influenced by struggles for land and housing justice. Finally, I am collaborating with a colleague at the University of Cambridge to research current efforts to preserve unregistered public rights of way across the UK. As part of this project, in consultation with national and local land access groups, we are developing an open-source land justice curriculum to involve students in the research required to officially register these rights of way, framing experiential learning of research skills within broader questions of land and environmental justice.

Paradoxical spaces of radical and feminist praxis

Finally, I consider the productive tensions within radical and intersectional feminist praxis, especially in relation to the organization of activist and educational spaces. Collaborative work emerging from this area of interest includes an article that reconceptualizes ‘safe space’ as paradoxical – involving the continual negotiation of porous binaries such as safe-unsafe (Antipode 2014), and an article on framing the academic department as a key site for anti-racist feminist intervention (Gender, Place & Culture 2020). Considering what higher educational spaces (can) do – which informs and is informed by my teaching – I have also undertaken collaborative projects on the potential of experimental educational spaces on the ‘edge’ of the university (Anarchist Pedagogies 2012), the increasing role of financial speculation in higher education (ephemera 2017), and a decolonial analysis of the spatial and temporal assumptions in calls for ‘slow scholarship’ (ACME 2019).



  • Noterman E (2021) Adverse commoning: tracing the contested legal geographies of the urban commons. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. DOI: 10.1177/02637758211053339.
  • Noterman E (2021) Speculating on vacancy. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. DOI: 10.111/trans.12477
  • Noterman E (2020) Taking back vacant property. Urban Geography. DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2020.1743519
  • Al-Saleh D & Noterman E (2020) Organizing for collective feminist killjoy geographies in a U.S. university. Gender, Place & Culture. DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2020.1726881
  • Meyerhoff E & Noterman E (2019) Revolutionary scholarship by any speed necessary: slow or fast but for the end of this world. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 18(1), 217-245.
  • Hanson L & Noterman E (2017) Speculating on the university: disruptive actions in today’s corporate university. ephemera: theory & politics in organization 17(3): 185-202.
  • Noterman E (2016) Beyond tragedy: differential commoning in a manufacturing housing cooperative. Antipode 48(2): 433-452. DOI: 10.1111/anti.12182.
  • The Roestone Collective (E Noterman & H Rosenfeld) (2014) Safe space: towards a reconceptualization. Antipode 46(6): 1335-1359. DOI: 10.1111/anti.12089

Book chapters

  • Noterman E & A Pusey (2012) Inside, outside and on the edge of the academy: experiments in radical pedagogies. In: R Haworth (ed) Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education. PM Press.


  • Al-Saleh D & Noterman E (in press) Calling all collectives, Interviews with Feminist Geography Collectives. In: Hawkins M, Gokariksel B, Neubert C & S Smith (eds) Feminist Geography Unbound: Discomfort, Bodies, and Prefigured Futures. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.
  • Noterman E & Zanichkowsky A (2020) Free the 350: decarceration map of Madison (woodcut print map). HG’s 2020 Art Contest. Human Geography 13(1): 99-105.


  • Director of Studies for Geography at Queens’ College (2021-22)
  • Supervisions for Part IA Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Economic Geography
  • Skills supervisions for Part IA on Critical Cartography, Critical Theory, Geographical Thought
  • Undergraduate Dissertation Supervisor