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New Arts faculty in 2021-22: Dr. Sarah Zell

Mon. Oct. 11, 2021

The Faculty of Arts is pleased to welcome new faculty members in several departments this year including: Criminal Justice; English; History; Political Science; Psychology; Religion and Culture; Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications; Sociology; Theatre and Film; and Urban and Inner-City Studies.

We're asking each of our new faculty members to introduce themselves by providing us with a brief profile highlighting their research and courses they'll teach as well as a photo. That way we'll recognize them when we meet them in the halls on campus or in Zoom meetings online.

Dr. Sarah Zell (UIC)

Dr. Sarah ZellDr. Shauna MacKinnon says that "students will benefit greatly from [Sarah Zell's] knowledge, her commitment to critical urban theories and community-based research."

Photo credit: Naniece Ibrahim

Today, we feature Dr. Sarah Zell, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies. Dr. Zell completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia, where she held a Pacific Century Fellowship. Dr. Zell has an active research program, including SHRCC-funded projects, and has had experience working as a research consultant.

According to Dr. Shauna MacKinnon, Chair of the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies, "Faculty and staff in the Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies are pleased to welcome Dr. Sarah Zell to our team at Merchants Corner." MacKinnon states, "Sarah comes to us from the University of Winnipeg’s Institute for Urban Studies where she has gained extensive research experience on urban and inner-city issues. Urban and Inner-City Studies students will benefit greatly from Sarah’s knowledge, her commitment to critical urban theories and community-based research."

Please join us all in welcoming Dr. Zell to the Faculty of Arts. And thank you to her for providing her profile info and photo.


PhD – Geography, University of British Columbia

MA – Latin American Studies/Migration Studies, University of Texas at Austin

BA Honors – English/Romance Languages, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Dr. Sarah Zell is a broadly trained human geographer whose research interests center on migration settlement patterns and processes, migration and border policy and governance, feminist political geography, and labour mobility and precarity. She is also interested in questions related to housing and urban change and adaptation, citizenship and belonging, and qualitative and community-based, participatory research methodologies.

She completed her PhD in Geography at the University of British Columbia, where she held a Pacific Century Fellowship and was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Metropolis British Columbia, and the Liu Institute for Global Issues. Her doctoral work examined the recruitment and migration process of temporary migrant workers to Western Canada, analyzing their precarity and associated spatializations of borders and state power. She previously worked as a Senior Research Associate at the Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg, where she led and was involved in several large-scale research projects focused on a range of urban issues, including housing and homelessness. She has been a research consultant for the Government of Manitoba, Government of British Columbia, and the Vancouver Mayor’s Working Group on Immigration.

Sarah’s work engages with critical theory, and she often collaborates with community-based organizations to mobilize research in meaningful ways to promote advocacy and progressive change. Dr. Zell is a founding member of the SSHRC-funded Migration Research Collective/Collectif de Recherche sur les Migrations (MRC/CRM). She is also a Research Affiliate with Immigration Research West and sits on the Research Committee of the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations (MANSO) and on Immigration Partnership Winnipeg’s Civic Engagement Sector Council. She enjoys engaging with and supporting students.


• Housing and Neighbourhood – UIC 3430/GEOG 3430
• Community Organizing – UIC 3210/IDS 3210
• Immigration and the Inner City – UIC 3050

Current research projects

Dr. Zell’s current projects include:

  • Addressing the Housing Needs of Refugee Families through Transitional Supportive Housing – in partnership with IRCOM, longitudinal study exploring meanings and lived experience of settlement for newly arrived refugees, and the intersection of housing and ‘integration’ (with Jill Bucklaschuk, Aynslie Hinds, Shereen Denetto, Lawrence Deane; funded by CMHC)
  • Urban Carcerality: Assessing Conditions of Release in Winnipeg – examines recent trends in bail conditions, their spatiality, lived experience, and intersection with housing precarity (with Amelia Curran; funded by MRA – SSHRC)
  • Settlement Service Use and Economic Outcomes for Immigrants in Manitoba (with Aynslie Hinds, MANSO)

Selected recent publications

Zell, S., & Curran, A. (forthcoming). Borders, New Materialism, and Resistance as Method. In S. Hughes (Ed.), Critical Geographies of Resistance. Edward Elgar Press.

Zell, S., & McCullough, S. (forthcoming). Seniors and Eviction in Canada: A Life-Course Approach. Institute of Urban Studies; Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Labman, S., & Zell, S. (2021). The shift toward citizen-driven migration in Canada. In C. Dauvergne (Ed.), Research Handbook on the Law and Politics of Migration (pp. 110 –124). Edward Elgar Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4337/9781789902266.00018

Distasio, J., Maunder, M., Zell, S., & Quanbury, D. (2020). Divided Prairie Neighbourhood: West Broadway’s Story of Hope, Challenge, and Resiliency. Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg.

Zell, S., & McCullough, S. (2020). Evictions and Eviction Prevention in Canada. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Distasio, J., & Zell, S. (2020). People, Policies, and Place: Indigenous and Immigrant Population Shifts in Winnipeg’s Inner-City Neighbourhoods. In J. Grant, A. Walks, & H. Ramos (Eds.), Changing neighbourhoods: Social and spatial polarization in Canadian cities (pp. 215–34). University of British Columbia Press.

Pratt, G., Zell, S., Johnston, C., & Venzon, H. (2020). Performing Nanay in Winnipeg: Filipino Labour Migration to Canada. Creative Intervention. Studies in Social Justice, 14(1), 55–66. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26522/ssj.v2020i14.2224

Distasio, J., Zell, S., McCullough, S., & Edel, B. (2019). Localized Approaches to Ending Homelessness: Indigenizing Housing First. Institute of Urban Studies, University of Winnipeg.

Distasio, J., Zell, S., & Snyder, M. (2018). At Home in Winnipeg: Localizing Housing First as a Culturally Responsive Approach to Understanding and Addressing Urban Indigenous Homelessness. Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network, Prairie Research Centre.

Zell, S. (2017). Intermediaries. In D. Richardson, N. Castree, M. Goodchild, A. Kobayashi, W. Liu, & R. Marston (Eds.), The Wiley-AAG International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Wiley-Blackwell.

Polanco, G., & Zell, S. (2017). English as a Border-Drawing Matter: Language and the Regulation of Migrant Service Worker Mobility in International Labor Markets. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 18(1), 267–89. DOI: 10.1007/s12134-016-0478-9