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Expat, Local, and Refugee

“Studying Up” the Global Division of Labor and Mobility in the Humanitarian Industry in Jordan

Reem Farah

Abstract

In migration studies, humanitarian work and workers are studied as benefactors or managers of migrants and refugees. This article inverts the gaze from “researching down” refugees to “studying up” the humanitarian structure that governs them. The article studies how the humanitarian industry ballooned after the Syrian refugee response in Jordan due to the influx of expatriate humanitarians as economic migrants from the global North to refugee situations in the host country in the global South. It examines the global division of mobility and labor among expatriate, local, and refugee humanitarian workers, investigating the correlation between geographic (horizontal) mobility and social/professional (vertical) mobility, demonstrating that the social and professional mobility of workers depends on their ability to access geographic mobility. Thus, rather than advocating for and facilitating global mobility, the humanitarian industry maintains a colonial division of labor and mobility. This raises the question: who benefits most from humanitarian assistance?