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School of Geography

Dr Elsa Noterman

Elsa

Lecturer in Human Geography

Email: e.noterman@qmul.ac.uk
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 204
Office Hours: Tuesdays 11am-12pm (Geography, Room 204), Mondays 3-4pm (online, Teams)

Profile

I am interested in questions related to everyday collective struggles over land and housing. To consider these questions, I draw on critical legal, feminist, decolonial and antiracist theories of property and social reproduction. The way that I approach these questions is also informed by my background in community organizing, public education, and community development.

At QMUL, I am a Lecturer in Human Geography and a Fellow of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences. I joined QMUL in September 2022 from Queens’ College, University of Cambridge where I was a Junior Research Fellow (2020-2022) and Director of Studies for Geography (2021-2022). I received my PhD and MS in Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

My research bridges conversations in the social sciences and humanities, and draws on qualitative, critical cartographic, and participatory research methods. It involves: 1) conceptual work that unravels normative power regimes that perpetuate inequity and dispossession; 2) conceptual and methodological attention to ongoing everyday resistance to these regimes with outcomes that extend beyond academia; 3) an interdisciplinary approach emerging from intellectual curiosity, pedagogical experimentation, and collaborative knowledge production.

Teaching

In 2022-2023, I am teaching on the following modules:

  • GEG4106 Reinventing Britain
  • GEG7120 Geographic Thought and Practice

Research

Research Interests:

My research program includes the following overlapping trajectories:

Il/legal geographies of property

My research primarily focuses on collective struggles over 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 2021), speculative (counter) cartographies of urban vacancy (see Transactions 2022), legal counterclaims to urban commons (see Environment and Planning D 2022), and through the circulation of ‘fugitive dust’ (see Annals forthcoming). I am currently taking this focus on legal geographies of property in new directions through a research project on the management and disposal of ‘surplus’ U.S. federal property for ‘public benefit,’ and through a collaborative paper on children’s trespassing.

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). As a part of a feminist mapping collective – and in collaboration with two housing movements – I have also explored 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 working a project with a colleague at Vanderbilt University that attends to local efforts to repair and account for historical and ongoing dispossession. Finally, collaborating with a former colleague and students, I have been researching current efforts to preserve unregistered public rights of way in England and Wales. As part of this project, in collaboration and consultation with national and local land access groups, we are developing an open-source land justice curriculum.

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).

Publications

Journal Articles

Noterman, E. 2022. “Adverse commoning: tracing the contested legal geographies of the urban commons.” Environment and Planning D: Society & Space. 40(1): 99-117.

Noterman, E. 2022. “Speculating on vacancy.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 47(1): 123-138.

Urban ECA Collective, Noterman, E., et al. 2022. “Redefining the role of urban studies: Early Career Academics in the post-COVID-19 university.” CITY 26(4): 562-586.

Bley K., K. Caldwell, M. Kelly, J. Loyd, R.Roth, T. Anderson, A. Bonds, J. Plevin, D. Madison, E. Noterman, C. Spencer, T. Sims, C. Archuleta, Z. Ellner, T. McDowell, C. Nestel, et al. 2022. “A design challenge for transforming justice,” GeoHumanities 8(1): 344-365.

Noterman, E. 2021. “Taking back vacant property.” Urban Geography 42(8): 1079-1098.

Al-Saleh, D. and E. Noterman. 2021. “Organizing for collective feminist killjoy geographies in a US university.” Gender, Place and Culture 28(4): 453-474.

Meyerhoff E. and E. Noterman. 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. and E. Noterman. 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 manufactured housing cooperative.” Antipode 48(2): 433-452.

Roestone Collective (Noterman E. and H. Rosenfeld). 2014. “Safe space: towards a reconceptualization.” Antipode 46(5): 1335-1359.

Book Chapters

Noterman E. and 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, pp. 175-199. PM Press.

Other Publications

Noterman E., L. Leavitt, M. Kelly, A. Iverson, K. Caldwell, and K. Bley (in press). “Could we house those experiencing houselessness? An analysis across 25 major U.S. cities during Covid-19 and beyond.” In: Guerrilla Cartography (ed.), Shelter: An Atlas.

Al-Saleh D. and E. Noterman. 2021. “Calling all collectives: interviews with feminist geography collectives.” In: M. Hawkins, B. Gokariksel, C. Neubert, and S. Smith (eds.) Feminist Geography Unbound: Discomfort, Bodies, and Prefigured Futures, 282-288. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press.

Lally, N., Noterman, E. and K. Woodward. 2020. “Madison’s Race to Inequity.” Abolition Geographies Collective blog (online). https://abolitiongeographies.space/?p=359

Noterman, E. and A. Zanichkowsky. 2020. “Free the 350: decarceration map of Madison” (woodcut print map). Human Geography 2020 Art Contest. Human Geography 13(1), 99-105.

Book Reviews

Noterman, E. 2019. Review of ‘Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C.’ (2018), by A. Huron. Antipode, July 2019 (online).

Noterman, E. and H. Rosenfeld. 2018. Review of ‘Domestic Fortress: Fear and the New Home Front’ (2016), by R. Atkinson and S. Blandy. Urban Studies 55(2): 481-486.

Noterman, E. and H. Rosenfeld. 2015. Review of ‘Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence’ (2013), by C. Hanhardt. Urban Studies 52(10): 1934-1936

Supervision

I would welcome enquires from potential PhD students, including (but not limited to) those interested in the following:

· Legal geographies

· Property

· The commons/commoning

· Housing and land justice

· Decolonial and anti-racist geographies of land

· Urban social movements

· Feminist geographies

· Critical pedagogy

· Participatory and counter-mapping

· Participatory and activist research

Current PhD students:

Jacob Stringer "Renters unions against the neo-liberal city: can new renters’ organisations in Barcelona and London build mass movements?", funded by 1+3 ESRC LISS Studentship (second supervisor)

Public Engagement

Over the years, I have developed creative and critical public mapping projects in collaboration with colleagues and community activists. This work includes maps and analysis examining the relationship between houselessness and property vacancy across 25 major U.S. cities (Noterman et al., in press); a series of public maps on racial justice, sponsored by the City of Madison, Wisconsin (see for example, Noterman and Zanichkowsky 2020). I have also created maps as part of activist scholarship around issues of affordable housing and environmental justice.

In the summer of 2022, supported by ESRC Social Science Impact funding, I co-organised (along with Dr Camilla Penney) a research internship program for students to work on questions of land justice in the city of Cambridge. Working with the students and collaborating with local and national land access organisations, we collected evidence to preserve local threatened public rights of way, called on Colleges to increase access to their lands, and mapped College and University land ownership. We also drafted – and are continuing to develop – a collaborative, open-source, and praxis-based curriculum on local land justice in the UK. This work was part of a broader research project, ‘Accessing Land Justice,’ which also included three public workshops (see for example, https://www.oss.org.uk/access-and-land-justice/).

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