Serin D. Houston

Assistant Professor of Geography and International Relations


Office Hours: Mondays 3:00-4:30 and Fridays 1:30-3:00
Office: 408C Clapp Lab
Email: Serin D. Houston
Phone: 413-538-2055
Fax: 413-538-2239

Course Offerings:

Fall 2015

  • World Regional Geography (105)
  • Global Movements: Migrations, Refugees, Diasporas (208)

Spring 2016

  • World Regional Geography (105)
  • Cities in a Global Context (202)


  • Syracuse University, Ph.D.
  • Syracuse University, C.A.S.
  • University of Washington, M.A.
  • Dartmouth College, B.A.

Specializations Include

Urban, Cultural and Social Geography; Refugee and Migration Studies; Qualitative Methods

Personal Statement

My teaching philosophy revolves around a core belief that learning is a dynamic and reflective process, not a particular end point or a bounded canon of knowledge. A key part of this process is crafting a conducive setting for teaching and learning to unfold. Thus, in my classes, I strive to support multiple ways of knowing and empower students as thinkers and writers. I view myself as a guide, the one who offers relevant questions, prompts discussions, clarifies ideas, shares insights, and models persistent curiosity. My syllabi and course materials push students to unpack assumptions as I emphasize directly grappling with the interdependent systems of our world, deconstructing hierarchies of power, and excavating underrepresented perspectives. I believe in the power of education to transform individuals and communities, to nurture critical thinking and inquisitiveness, and to foster synergistic ties between theory and praxis. Sharing my passion for geographic inquiry with the MHC community is a great joy!

Research Interests

I am 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, I employ ethnographic methods to address questions of power, social inequities, and human-environment relations. In the past, I have 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.

My book manuscript, 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, I underscore why and how the City often ends up reproducing the very inequities it seeks to ameliorate. 

My 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, with my MHC research assistants, I have co-authored manuscripts about sanctuary social movements and the neoliberal logics framing sanctuary legislation. 

Selected Publications

  • Serin Houston and Olivia Lawrence-Weilmann. (2015). The Model Migrant and Multiculturalism: Analyzing Neoliberal Logics in US Sanctuary Legislation, in Migration Policy and Practice: Interventions and Solutions. Bauder, H. and Matheis, C. (eds.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan Press, 101-126. (Forthcoming). 

  • Serin Houston. (2015). Sacred Squatting: Seeking Sanctuary in Religious Spaces, in Migration, Squatting and Radical Autonomy: Resistance and Destabilization of Racist Regulatory Policies and B/Ordering Mechanisms. Chattapadhyay, S. and Mudu, P. (eds.) (Forthcoming).

  • Serin Houston, James McLean, Jennifer Hyndman, and Arif Jamal. (2010). Still Methodologically Becoming: Collaboration, Feminist Politics, and ‘Team Ismaili’, Gender, Place, and Culture 17(1), 61-79.  

  • Serin Houston, Jennifer Hyndman, James McLean, and Arif Jamal. (2010). The Methods and Meanings of Collaborative Team Research, Qualitative Inquiry 16, 285-297. 

  • Serin Houston. (2010). Feminist Methodology, in Encyclopedia of Geography. Warf, B. (ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  • Serin Houston. (2009). Scales of Whiteness and Racial Mixing: Challenging and Confirming Racial Categories, The Geographical Bulletin 50(2), 93-110.    

  • Serin Houston and Richard Wright. (2008). ‘It’s Just that People Mix Better Here’: Household Narratives of Belonging and Displacement in Seattle, Washington, in Immigration and Integration in Urban Communities: Renegotiating the City. Hanley, L., Ruble, B., and Garland, A. (eds). Washington, DC: Johns Hopkins University Press, 73-95.

  • Serin Houston, Richard Wright, Mark Ellis, Steven Holloway, and Margaret Hudson. (2005). Places of Possibility: Where Mixed-Race Partners Meet, Progress in Human Geography 29(6), 700-717.

  • Serin Houston and Richard Wright. (2003). Making and Re-making Tibetan Diasporic Identities, Social and Cultural Geography 4(2), 217-232.

  • Richard Wright, Serin Houston, Mark Ellis, Steven Holloway, and Margaret Hudson. (2003). Crossing Racial Lines: Geographies of Mixed-Race Partnering and Multiraciality in the United States, Progress in Human Geography 27(4), 457-474.