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. In the past, Houston 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, entitled Seattle: Real Change? (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. Another current project is on US immigrant sanctuary legislation and sanctuary social movements. With research assistants from Mount Holyoke, Houston and her team investigate the possibilities for and challenges to creating just and safe spaces for migrants through the provision of sanctuary. With Kirk Lange, Houston explores the possibilities of global/local community engagement as praxis and pedagogy. Finally, funded by the Whiting Foundation and the AAUW, Houston is launching a new project on climate migration in the South Pacific.
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 Research Methods.
Selected Publications and News Links
Serin Houston and Kirk Lange. (2017). “Global/Local” Community Engagement: Advancing Integrative Learning and Situated Solidarity. Journal of Geography in Higher Education. (Forthcoming).
Serin Houston and Charlotte Morse. (2017). The Ordinary and Extraordinary: Producing Migrant Inclusion and Exclusion in US Sanctuary Movements. Studies in Social Justice 11(1), 27-47.
Serin Houston. (2016). Sacred Squatting: Seeking Sanctuary in Religious Spaces, in Migration, Squatting and Radical Autonomy. Chattapadhyay, S. and Mudu, P. (eds.) New York, NY: Routledge Press – Space, Place, and Politics Series. 183-188.
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 – Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship Series. 101-126.
"Conversations on American Studies," University of Massachusetts podcast, August 2015.