University of Wisconsin–Madison

Elsa Noterman

PhD Candidate


PhD candidate, Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison

MA, Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2014

BA, Political Science, Haverford College, 2006

Research Areas

Urban geography; feminist theory; social reproduction; the commons; property; affordable housing; legal geographies; critical pedagogy; social movements and activism

Current Research

My work examines how struggles over sites of social reproduction, particularly in relation to urban land and housing, both reinforce and destabilize hegemonic institutions (such as private property). Rather than seek to resolve or dismiss this tension, I consider its political potentialities.

My current research develops a political framework for critical geographies of urban vacancy through an examination of contested 'vacant' properties in Philadelphia. Drawing on over twelve months of fieldwork this work challenges normative conceptualizations of urban vacancy. I offer an alternative framework that considers vacant properties as doing critical work, rather than existing as empty or stable spaces. They reflect the violent processes that produce them - including uneven development and racialized segregation - but also reveal the limits to these processes; limits that offer analytical openings beyond normative notions of law, private property, and urban development.

My previous research explored the struggles involved in the ongoing development and management of material and immaterial commons. Specifically, I considered the multiple and uneven ways that people understand and interact with shared resources across space and over time. I examined this "differential commoning" in manufactured housing (also known as mobile homes or trailers) communities in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, where residents formed shared-equity cooperatives in response to the precarity of their housing.

Courses Taught

Lecturer. "Geography of Wisconsin" (Geog 342). Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Summer 2019.

Lecturer. "Critical Geographies of Urban Abandonment." Winter Term, Middlebury College. 2018.

Teaching Assistant. "Environmental Conservation" (EnvirSt/Geog 339). Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fall 2015, Spring 2016.

Invited Lectures:

"The Global Commons." Geography 537: Culture and Environment, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2017.

"Human Geography Methodology." Geography 339: Practicing Human Geography, Middlebury College, 2016.

"International Social Movements." International Studies 101: Solidarity, movement and transformation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2015.

"The World Social Forum and the Alter-Globalization Movement." International Studies 101: Solidarity, movement and transformation, 2014.


American Association of Geographers (Specialty groups: Cultural Geography, Urban Geography, Black Geographies, Legal Geography, Geographic Perspectives on Women, Women's Mentoring Network). 

Women in Geography (WIG), University of Wisconsin-Madison.Teaching Assistants Association (TAA), University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The Corporation of Haverford College, Haverford College. 

Recent Publications

Journal Articles & Book Chapters:

2019 "Revolutionary scholarship by any speed necessary: slow or fast but for the end of this world. E. Meyerhoff and E. Noterman. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 18(1): 217-245.

2017 "Speculating on the university: disruptive actions in today's corporate university." L. Hanson and E. Noterman. ephemera: theory & politics in organization 17(3):185-202.

2016 "Beyond tragedy: differential commoning in a manufactured housing cooperative." E. NotermanAntipode 48(2): 433-452. 

2014 "Safe space: towards a reconceptualization." The Roestone Collective (E. Noterman & H. Rosenfeld). Antipode 46(5): 1346-1365.

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

Other publications:

2019 Book Review: Carving Out the Commons: Tenant Organizing and Housing Cooperatives in Washington, D.C. by A. Huron. E. NotermanAntipode, online at:

2018 Book Review: Domestic Fortress: Fear and the New Home Front, by R. Atkinson and S. Blandy. The Roestone Collective (E. Noterman & H. Rosenfeld). Urban Studies 55(2): 481-486.

2015 Book Review: Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence, by C. Hanhardt. The Roestone Collective (E. Noterman & H. Rosenfeld). Urban Studies 52(10): 1934-1936.

2015 "In the regents we trust? How autonomy put tenure on the chopping block." L. Hanson and E. Noterman. Reclaim UC,

2015 "What university administrators gain from $300 million in cuts." L. Hanson and E. Noterman. Reclaim UC,

2015 "The high price of a public authority in Wisconsin." L. Hanson, E. Noterman, & E. Schirmer. Remaking the University,

Awards and Honors

2018-19 Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies Dissertation Completion Fellowship.

2018-19 Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellowship. Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Honorary.

2014-18 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for Geography. National Science Foundation.

2017-18, 2013-14 University Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2017-18, 2016-17 Clarence W. Olmstead Outstanding Citizenship Award. Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2016 University of Wisconsin Law School Institute for Legal Studies Law and Society Graduate Fellowship.

2015-16 Clarence W. Olmstead Outstanding Publication by a Graduate Student. Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2015 Scott Kloeck-Jenson International Pre-Dissertation Travel Fellowship, Global Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2013 Vilas Welcome Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2012-13 Chancellor's Opportunity Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2006-07 Haverford House Fellowship, Haverford College.

2006 Stephen H. Miller Memorial Award, Haverford College.

Contact Information