Hanna Berg

Hanna BERG

PhD Researcher in Anthropology and Sociology
Spoken languages
Swedish, English, Arabic
Areas of expertise
  • International migration
  • Mobility
  • Refugees
  • Nationalism
  • Humanitarianism
  • Borders
  • Documents and Bureaucracy
Geographical Region of Expertise
  • Middle East
  • Jordan

PhD Thesis


Provisional PhD Thesis Title: The Afterlife of a Humanitarian Emergency: Bureaucratizing humanitarian aid and refugee life in Jordan

Expected Completion Date: Fall 2024
Situated in Jordan, a ‘humanitarian hub’ of the Middle East, this research examines the role of bureaucracy in producing and (re)shaping humanitarian time and space, its effects on the everyday life and work for local humanitarians and refugees, and how they navigate in, with and along its procedures. Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork with Syrian refugees and Jordanian humanitarian workers in urban spaces, Azraq refugee camp and irregular tented settlements (ITSs) it traces their participations with the bureaucratic apparatus. Following their everyday bureaucratic engagements – extending from street-level encounters of registrations and assessments, third country resettlement procedures, to report writings and staff meetings – it attends to the imaginary power of bureaucratic processes and the documents they produce. Against the presupposition that it always operates in an endless present empty of anticipation, examining humanitarianism from the vantage point of bureaucracy allows for situating it in a larger timeframe that accommodates the emergency, its imagined futures, near and far ones, and its aftermath all together. As such, this research reveals, beyond the ways it undermines the universal self-formulated goals of humanitarianism, the role of bureaucracy in (re)shaping and sustaining not only life in displacement, but also the humanitarian structure itself. 


Hanna’s academic background is in Semitic languages and Middle East studies, and her current research works across theoretical conversations on humanitarian interventions, practice and governance in the Middle East region, and anthropology of documents and bureaucracy. Recently, she has also been engaged in the MENA-track of the Institute’s executive master program, Development Policies and Practices. During the fall 2023 she supervised humanitarian professionals in their thesis writing on various geographical and topical areas within the realm of humanitarianism in the MENA region.

Research Interests

  • Migration
  • Refugees
  • Humanitarian governance
  • Middle East
  • Documents and Bureaucracy

Academic Work Experience

Teaching assistant 2020-2021, 2023-2024.

  • Courses: Critical Refugee Studies (Spring 2023); Social Theory II: Critical Epistemologies (Spring 2023); Capstone Projects, Space, Mobility and Cities track (Spring 2021); Apocalypse Then and Now: Advanced Research Seminar in Understanding Systemic Collapse and Adaptation (Fall 2020); Environmental Security, (critical) Geopolitics and the Anthropocene (Fall 2020); Introduction to Global Health: Problems, Principles, Actors and Practices (Fall 2020); Education and Development: Tools and Techniques for International Cooperation (Spring 2020); Internationalization of Education and Development (Spring 2020); Workshop on Strategy Consulting in the Development Sector (Spring 2020)
  • Academic support Development Policies and Practices executive master program, MENA-group.
  • Supervision of theses

Fellowships, Grant and Awards

  • Institute for Middle East Studies, George Washington University, Washington DC, Visiting Scholar (2024)
  • COREC Research Commission of the University of Geneva Doc.Mobility Grant (2024)


  • Berg. H (forthcoming 2024) Waste of time is worse than death - ḍayā‘al-waqt ashadd min al-mawt, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
  • Berg. H (forthcoming 2024) Refugees in the making: Durable Marks of the Nansen Passport in Contemporary Humanitarian Governance. In Andreetta. S, Borelli, L (Eds.), Governing Migration Through Paperwork: Exclusive Inclusion, Differentiation, and State Legitimacy. Bergahn Books.
  • Berg, H. (2022). ليش صافنة؟": عن أنثروبولوجيا الأماكن المحكومة بالانتظار"ليش صافنة؟": عن أنثروبولوجيا الأماكن المحكومة بالانتظار.  Ultrasawt.
  • Berg, H. (2021). Waiting for Third Country Resettlement: Exploring Temporal (Im) Mobility for Syrian Refugees in Jordan. In Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury (Ed.), Revisiting the 1951 Refugee Convention: Exploring Global Perspectives. GP-ORF series.