Serin Houston is a human geographer whose research endeavors focus on questions of settlement, belonging, and social justice for different migrant communities and encounters in and transformations of urban space. In case studies that stretch from rural communities in Madagascar to the city government of Seattle, Washington, she employs ethnographic methods to address questions of power, social inequities, and human-environment relations. She has conducted qualitative research on settlement patterns for East African immigrants; conceptions of race and place in mixed-race households in the Pacific Northwest; spatial expressions of racial mixing throughout the US; Tibetan diasporic identities in Nepal, India, and the US; changing gender norms in Malagasy and Nepalese indigenous communities; and women’s entrepreneurship in Prague, Czech Republic.
Houston's book manuscript, currently titled Making Place in Seattle: The Challenges of Creativity, Sustainability, and Social Justice (contracted with the University of Nebraska Press), examines how the city government of Seattle works to translate the social values of social justice, sustainability, and creativity into tangible policies and governance practices. In tracing these efforts from theory to praxis, Houston underscores why and how the City often ends up reproducing the very inequities it seeks to ameliorate.
Serin Houston's other current project on US immigrant sanctuary legislation investigates the possibilities for and challenges to creating just and safe spaces for migrants through the provision of sanctuary. Sanctuary legislation can assume a variety of forms, but generally refers to local immigration policies, resolutions, and/or ordinances that counter exclusionary state or federal legislation. In addition to writing about the ties between sanctuary and squatting, she has co-authored manuscripts about sanctuary social movements and the neoliberal logics framing sanctuary legislation with her MHC research assistants.
At Mount Holyoke, Houston currently teaches World Regional Geography; Global Movements: Migrations, Refugees, and Diasporas; Cities in a Global Context; Sense of Place, Sense of Planet; and Geographies of Racial Mixing and Multiraciality.
"Conversations on American Studies," University of Massachusetts podcast, August 2015.