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Journal Article

What do they want from us?’ How locals work to meet their employers’ expectations in Jordan’s aid sector


Ward,  Patricia
Ethics, Law and Politics, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Ward, P. (2020). What do they want from us?’ How locals work to meet their employers’ expectations in Jordan’s aid sector. Sociology of Development, 6(3), 318-337. doi:10.1525/sod.2020.6.3.318.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-FF75-8
Stakeholders in the transnational aid sector are increasingly calling for more aid “localization”: relying more on local workers to implement aid projects in their respective home countries. This paper asks: What do aid organizations expect from their local employees, and how do these expectations shape local employees’ work routines? Drawing on data collected from over seven months of fieldwork in Jordan, a major global aid hub, I find that organizations hold cultural assumptions about local workers that shape their recruitment and their expectations of their local employees. Furthermore, these assumptions and expectations are much more ambivalent and conflictual than existing scholarship suggests. Employers want locals who are “Westernized professionals”: impartial, objective, transparent, and dispassionate workers. But they also expect local employees to act in “non-Western” ways, as “traditional locals” (reifying orientalist tropes related to corruption and Arab culture), to make aid projects work. Echoing Bhabha’s argument that colonial subject stereotypes are strategically ambivalent—“almost the same, but not white”—I show how locals engage in specific types of extra work for their employers—what I call hybridized labor—to try to meet these conflicting expectations.