| John Strait
Department of Geography and Geology
P.O. Box 2148
Huntsville, TX 77341
Associate Professor and Geography Program Coordinator
Urban Geography, Social/Cultural Geography, and Ethnic Geography
I am a broadly trained human geographer who specializes in sociocultural, urban, and ethnic geography. Since 2008 I have served as the Coordinator of the Geography Program and the faculty sponsor of GOSH (Geographers of Sam Houston), the campus-wide organization comprised of student geographers.
As a professor at SHSU, I have primarily been responsible for directing the following human geography courses: People, Place and Environment (GEOG 1321), Cultural Geography (GEOG 3350), Urban Geography (GEOG 4365), and Cultural Field Studies: Race, Blues & Rock’ N’ Roll (GEOG 4360). I also occasionally direct Weather & Climate (GEO 1301).
My main research and teaching interests are oriented around two streams of geographical inquiry that are distinct, yet do inform one another. One research stream lies at the intersections of racial and ethnic identity, urban residential dynamics, and the spatial realization of socioeconomic disadvantage. These interests have led me to study the impacts of neighborhood-level poverty on health disparities among racial and ethnic groups within urban environments. I also investigate the dynamics of neighborhood-level diversity and residential segregation among racial and ethnic groups, including comparative studies of the varied spatial experiences among multi-racial populations in Brazil, Hawaii and the conterminous United States. A second research stream focuses on the geographies of music, religion, food and diaspora studies, and the ways that these cultural phenomena are expressed via representations of “place” and “space.” These interests have stimulated my study of the geographical evolution and diffusion of blues-influenced culture and music, and their relationship to various forms of socio-cultural change, including the Civil Rights Movement. My research in this area has recently stimulated collaborative projects focused on artistic and literary representations of the cultural environment from which blues music evolved, particularly within the Mississippi Delta.
Over the last several years I have increasingly focused my time and energy on endeavors that merge my teaching, research and travel interests through the incorporation of the “pedagogy of place.” This intellectual philosophy is based on the notion that traditional learning is greatly enhanced when supplemented with field-experiences that utilize specific localities or “places” as primary resources, or “texts.” In short, scholars or students are more apt to appreciate important historical, sociological and/or geographical events and processes when learning about such phenomena at the exact places and spaces where they unfolded. My interest in this academic approach has led me to develop a course (GEO 4360) that incorporates field-experiences across the Mississippi Delta. This course and the associated field experiences utilize the lens of blues culture to address and tie together a host of geographical topics, such as migration, urbanization, evolving gender and race relations, economic change, heritage tourism and others. I, along with my wife and colleague Ava Fujimoto-Strait, also co-direct a similar field-based course that focuses on the interdisciplinary study of the cultural and physical environment of the Big Island of Hawaii (The Mixed-Plate: Cultural and Environmental Diversity on the Big Island of Hawaii). Beyond my work for SHSU, I have also been heavily involved in directing or participating in summer workshops designed for teachers, college faculty or other scholars that integrate these same placed-based methodologies. My ultimate goals as a geographer are to someday write the comprehensive book on the geography of barbecue, a project for which my skills as a participant-observer will be fully utilized. Before I’m through I also aspire to sit down with pie and coffee in every county seat in the state of Texas – I’m on my way toward attaining this goal but have a long way to go.
My non-academic interests include traveling, reading, music, sports - especially fishing and football - and coaching youth athletics. My biggest and most rewarding interest of all is spending time with ohana (family and friends), particularly my wife and geography colleague Ava, 12-year-old son Prezley, 7-year-old daughter Memphis, 14-year-old canine friend Booker T and 5-month-old puppy Tupelo.