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Williams College

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Program Name

Jordan: Health and Community Development


This research investigates the perception of dignity and sustainability from Syrian refugees and local aid workers in the Jordanian towns of Karak and Mafraq, through semistructured interviews conducted in Arabic and facilitated by a local translator. The study explores how these conceptions of dignity and sustainability differ from those that currently guide the international and Jordanian response to the Syrian refugee crisis, in the hopes of investigating a broader relationship between the international human rights industry and modern iterations of Western imperialism. An additional focus is the recommendations provided by refugees and aid workers on how the humanitarian response might be restructured to provide more sustainable and culturally informed support to refugees. It was found that dignity was repeatedly described as a combination of self sustainability, pride, and economic independence, and that the majority of participants expressed concerns that the current structuring of humanitarian aid hinders this combination vis a vis a strong dependency on aid (cash assistance) for livelihood. The recommendations for more sustainable aid emphasized employment opportunities for Syrian refugees and an institutionalized approach to psychosocial support programs. In the context of Western interventionism in the Middle East, these conclusions suggest a more historically informed view of humanitarian aid and the broader political implications thereof.


Growth and Development | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Political Science