Chris Herring

PhD Candidate

University of California, Berkeley

Department of Sociology


Santa Fe Camp, Fresno, CA

Photograph by Ian Martin

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Line outside the Multi-Service Center South, San Francisco

Line outside the Multi-Service Center South, San Francisco

Managing Marginality

My dissertation Managing Marginality: Homeless Seclusion and Survival is an ethnography of the three signature institutions governing homelessness in the US metropolis: the streets, shelters, and homeless housing programs. Combining ethnographic observations of living alongside those experiencing homelessness and working with bureaucrats, activists, and service providers addressing homelessness the dissertation traces how homelessness is struggled over as a governable social problem and the implications this has for different factions of the unhoused.

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Right 2 Dream Too Camp. Portland, Oregon

Right 2 Dream Too Camp. Portland, Oregon

Mass Homeless Encampments

Since the turn of the 21st century several US cities have witnessed the resurgence of large-scale homeless encampments. This page includes research papers, essays, and reports explaining why such encampments emerge,  how they evolve, and why some are evicted and other legalized. Drawing on interviews and observations in 12 encampments in eight municipalities, these papers demonstrate how large-scale encampments paradoxically serve as both tools of containing homeless populations for the local state and preferred safe grounds for those experiencing homelessness.

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Employment after Incarceration and Fair Chance Employment Policies

Under Professor Sandra Smith, I'm managing a survey and interview study exploring the impacts of Fair Chance Policies like Ban the Box on the perceptions and experiences of those formerly incarcerated. 

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Disaster and the Housing State

After the flooding of New Orleans pre-existing inequalities of class, neighborhood, and race were exacerbated due to an uneven recovery.  These sets of writings argue that at the heart of this uneven recovery is housing and uncovers the various ways local, state, and federal urban policies privileged homeowners at the expense of renters.

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The San Francisco Criminalization of Homelessness Study

Since 1981, San Francisco has passed more local measures to criminalize sleeping, sitting, and panhandling in public spaces than any other city in the state of California.  This study documents and analyzes the impacts of the rising tide of anti-homeless laws in an era of mass incarceration on those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco. The community-based study done in collaboration with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness and Dilara Yarbrough of SF State draws on findings from a citywide survey of 351 homeless individuals and 43 in-depth interviews. The study provides an in-depth analysis of each step in the criminalization of homelessness and makes evident how criminalization not only fails to reduce homelessness in public space, but also perpetuates poverty and exacerbates racial, gender, and health inequalities.

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Chris Herring is a doctoral candidate of Sociology at the University of California Berkeley, where he's affiliated with the Global Metropolitan Studies Program and Center for Ethnographic Research and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Poverty, Urban Sociology, Social Theory, Qualitative Methods, and Pedagogy.

His research focuses on the production and regulation of poverty and housing in US cities. Convening knowledge from across the social sciences Chris' research on the uneven reconstruction of Post-Katrina New Orleans, mass homeless encampments across Pacific Coast cities, and the management of homelessness in San Francisco has been featured in academic and popular publications of sociology, geography, anthropology, social movements, film, planning, architecture, community based research, and urban studies.

His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Center for Engaged Scholarship, the Berkeley Law School's Human Rights Center, the Empirical Legal Studies Workshop at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, and the Sociological Initiatives Foundation.

Chris' research, writing, and teaching embraces the ideals of public sociology and community based research. He has collaborated on two major studies and publications with the National Coalition on Homelessness and San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, the latter where he continues to organize as a member of their Human Rights Workgroup. He has also collaborated on research with the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, and ACORN. Chris regularly consults with think-tanks, county governments, and legal aid groups. He is an editor and co-founder of the new Berkeley Journal of Sociology: an online-first graduate run publication of public scholarship aimed at broadening the interpretive range and prospective application of social research to political struggles, emerging cultural trends, and alternative futures.

Before coming to Berkeley, Chris completed an MA in Social Anthropology at Central European University, Budapest, Hungary (2010) and a BA in Economics from Bard College (2008).  He also worked as a Project Manager in New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

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