Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Dr Jennifer Ferng

Jennifer Ferng is Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Postgraduate Coordinator at the University of Sydney. She received her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.Arch from Princeton University, and B.Arch from Rice University. Her expertise with asylum seekers, migrants and refugees in the built environment has focused on Pacific and Asian countries like Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, as well as Christmas Island, Australia. Her international research on forced displacement and humanitarian aid has been recognised by Australian National University, Harvard Asia Center, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Social Science Research Council (SSRC), University of Hong Kong, among others. Her current research addresses private contractors in providing humanitarian services and their role in the global refugee crisis. While at the IAS, she plans to collaborate with Professor Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, as part of the Refuge in a Moving World network, as well as academics in the UCL Urban Laboratory.

Project summary:
World’s Watchmen: Multinational Contractors and the Refugee Crisis
will examine how private contractors who provide humanitarian services have contributed to the global growth of the “detention industrial complex” and specifically, how humanitarian aid has become a corporate, if not outsourced, form of ethical responsibility by state governments. More types of services are being offered by third party contractors which provide basic human needs for asylum seekers and refugees in countries like Cambodia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. These services often include community or transit housing, detention facilities, educational classes, to health-related amenities like medication. The guardianship of asylum seekers and refugees, particularly in the Global South, has been appropriated and transformed into a new industry where the privatisation of immigration processing serves the political aims of western nations. Thus, this “corporate takeover of human rights” seeks to increase profits at the cost of legal justice and humane living conditions.