Patricia Ward

Ph.D Candidate

Patricia Ward

Patricia Ward

Curriculum Vitae

Bio and Research

Trish’s research interests are in the areas of: global and transnational sociology; work and organizations; humanitarian aid and development; social inequalities; and the global refugee regime. Her dissertation, “How Humanitarian Relief ‘Works’: International Aid Organizations and Local Labor in Crisis Contexts “examines how the transnational aid sector is reorganizing its operations amidst a growing number of protracted humanitarian crises worldwide. She studies how “localization”—Western-based humanitarian aid organizations’ increasing reliance on local actors to achieve their mandates—is transforming the organization of work within the sector. She explores the experiences of national aid employees in Jordan, a major global aid hub, as her case in this project where she conducted over 90 interviews with aid workers, along with ethnographic observations of their daily work routines in both rural and urban locations throughout the country. Her findings document how localization, which espouses to promote local engagement to make aid more effective and sustainable in the communities it targets, creates new forms of labor and relationships between and among workers and their communities as they try to navigate and meet their employers’ contradictory—and confusing—expectations of them as ‘local’ employees. Trish’s work shows how localization simultaneously ruptures and reinscribes Global North-Global South inequalities through ambivalent constructions of who local workers are, and how they should and can provide value to their organizations.

Trish’s previous work on the global refugee regime largely informs this current project. Prior to her studies at BU, Trish conducted research on the development and implementation of UNHCR’s urban refugee policy in the Middle East, and was a Fulbright student scholar in Canada where she studied refugee labor integration and Canadian scholars’ contributions to national immigration policy debates. Recognizing the critical ways that migration and human displacement structure work in the global economy, and the role that aid workers play in shaping narratives of these population movements in relation to humanitarianism and security, Trish’s work strives to nuance understandings of how and why we conceive certain forms of mobility and migration as social problems in the manners that we do in order to address issues related to global inequality more broadly. Trish obtained her BA from American University’s School of International Service.




Ward, P. Forthcoming. “‘What do they want from us?’ Rethinking how locals “work” to meet their employers’ expectations in Jordan’s aid sector.” Sociology of Development.


Ward, P. Forthcoming. “Capitalizing on ‘local knowledge’: The labor practices behind successful aid projects, the case of Jordan.” Current Sociology.


Ward, P. 2014. “Refugee cities: Reflections on the development and impact of UNHCR urban refugee policy in the Middle East.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 33(1): 77-93.