December 4, 2022

Singh Pens Essay for Magazine’s Inaugural Issue

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Ranjit Singh’s essay “Enter the Coyote” appeared in the inaugural issue of the online Pie and Chai Magazine, which focuses on local issues that resonate elsewhere. The essay considers the impact of coyotes on Potomac Creek, where Dr. Singh was raised. Dr. Singh teaches a seminar on politics and the environment, and researches and writes on local environmental issues from time to time.  Read the essay.

What to expect from Biden’s trip to the Middle East (The New Arab)

Singh Shares Opinion on Biden Trip to Middle East

Associate Professor Ranjit Singh, Department of Political Science and International Affairs

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Ranjit Singh

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Ranjit Singh’s views were recently quoted in an article titled “What to Expect from Biden’s Trip to the Middle East,” appearing in the New Arab magazine. New Arab is a news and current affairs website focused on the Arab world. It draws on the editorial staff of al-Araby al-Jadeed, one of the largest and most read Arabic language websites, focused on the region’s political, social and cultural issues.

Candidate Biden was extremely critical of Saudi leadership following the alleged murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Yet, according to Singh, President Biden, “who prides himself on his foreign policy acumen, is traveling to the region with an extraordinarily weak hand…  almost everything he’ll be saying and doing will be with his domestic political scene in mind.” In need of good headlines back home, especially vis-à-vis Ukraine, Biden is unlikely to trumpet any favors he grants the Saudis, but Riyadh can at least expect to extract some gains from his visit. Read more.

Singh Publishes Article “Arguing BDS in the Undergraduate Seminar”

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh published a peer-reviewed article “Arguing BDS in the Undergraduate Seminar” in the Spring 2022 Review of Middle East Studies, a journal published by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA).

Singh’s article discusses benefits and approaches to teaching students about one of the most controversial aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement seeking to pressure Israel to comply with international law and end the occupation of Palestinians. The article is based in Singh’s experience teaching a 2019 UMW seminar that largely focused on debates surrounding BDS. Despite the heated controversy, Singh argues social scientists should not shy from teaching such movements because they affect political behavior, shed light on academia and the need for interdisciplinary approaches, engage issues of professorial authority, and open a portal to the ethics of dissent in the era of Black Lives Matter.

An earlier version of this paper was sponsored by MESA’s Committee for Undergraduate Middle East Studies, and presented virtually at the 2020 annual MESA conference.

Singh Publishes Journal Article on Private Landownership and Land Conservation

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh

Department of Political Science and International Affairs Associate Professor Ranjit Singh article titled “‘Been Heres’ and ‘Come Heres’ in Stafford County, Virginia: Private Landowners and Land Conservation on the Urban Fringe” appeared in the Fall 2020 edition of the peer-review journal Environment, Space, Place.

Private land is vitally important to land conservation efforts, but access to private landowners is a challenge for researchers. Using a participatory research approach, this article studies the preferences and concerns of such landowners on the rural-urban fringe of Stafford County, Virginia. Interviews with 53 private landowners show that conservation is deeply embedded within key social, moral, cultural, and political contexts, including a divide between long-term and newer residents. Successful conservation requires such social knowledge. It is argued that landowner skepticism about local government points towards joint strategies between local government and partner groups. Land conservation choices should be framed as an affirmation of—not limitation on—property rights since urban fringe landowners are likely to see such rights (especially long-established notions such as “by-right” development) as under attack. Conservation also presents an opportunity for community building in rapidly urbanizing areas, since older residents often feel excluded or unappreciated by local government and newer arrivals.

This research was supported by a Jepson Fellowship, and is an outgrowth of Prof. Singh’s long-term involvement in local land conservation, including his current service on the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust.

Singh Presents to Middle East Studies Association

Associate Professor Ranjit Singh, Department of Political Science and International Affairs

Associate Professor Ranjit Singh, Department of Political Science and International Affairs

Associate Professor Ranjit Singh of the Political Science and International Affairs department presented his paper “Arguing BDS: Reflections of Teaching Undergraduates about Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” to the annual conference of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) on October 15, 2020. Singh’s paper reflects on his experiences teaching a 2019 seminar titled “Political Dissent in the Middle East.” His paper was sponsored by MESA’s Committee for Undergraduate Middle East Studies, which he helped to found ten years ago.

Also at the MESA conference, Singh served as a discussant for papers accepted to the Committee’s forum on undergraduate research. Sarah Pietrowski, a UMW Political Science senior, successfully presented her research titled “The Impact of Syrian Refugees on German Immigration Policy” to the same forum. She initially developed her paper in Singh’s Spring 2020 “Politics of the Middle East and North Africa” course.

UMW Forms Partnership with Northern Virginia Conservation Trust

UMW students at the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust luncheon.

UMW students at the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust’s 25th anniversary conservation luncheon.

UMW students have the opportunity to learn about the policy process, gain practical skills, and pursue their passion for protecting the environment. Dr. Ranjit Singh has formed a partnership with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT), a land trust operating in the dense urban areas of Northern Virginia’s suburbs. Dr. Singh, associate professor of political science and international affairs, has worked with NVCT to help students learn about legislative and legal strategies for conserving undeveloped land. A partnership that provides unique learning experiences for the students and much-needed support for the NVCT, Singh has used his long-standing relationship with the Trust to provide chances for students to volunteer in a variety of projects and serve as interns.  One of Singh’s formers students is now on the board of directors for the Trust, building upon his past volunteer experience with them. The Trust had their 25th anniversary conservation luncheon on March 21, 2019 at the Key Bridge Marriott, and UMW sponsored a table for this event. Dr. Singh was able to bring eight students to the event. Demonstrating the promise of community engagement, this partnership represents a example of President Paino’s strategic vision for UMW over the next decade.

 

Singh Discusses Muslims and Community

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Ranjit Singh and Sister Munira Salim Abdalla discussed Muslims and the Fredericksburg community on the  Feb. 11 Town Talk radio program in response to recent controversy over a new mosque. The program may be heard on WFVA radio here: http://www.newstalk1230.net/episode/town-talk-feb-11/

UMW Professor Assesses Afghan Political Party Initiative

Young Afghan political party activists who received training through a pro-democracy initiative offer hope for effective democratic elections in the war-torn country, according to University of Mary Washington Professor Ranjit Singh, who recently returned from a 10-day research and reporting trip to Afghanistan.

Singh, associate professor of political science and international relations,

Ranjit Singh

Ranjit Singh, associate professor of political science and international relations.

traveled to Kabul earlier this month at the request of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI). The nonprofit agency that works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide was contracted by the British Foreign Office to implement a 27-month program to support the role of political parties in Afghanistan. Singh interviewed nearly 40 members and leaders of various Afghan political parties in an effort to assess the effectiveness of the program that ends this month.

“Robust political parties are considered essential to modern democracies,” said Singh, an accredited international election observer who witnessed the Afghan presidential election of 2009 as part of a delegation of foreign policy experts. Singh also has been part of observer delegations during the elections in South Africa and Namibia in 1994, Bangladesh in 1996, Liberia in 1997 and the Gaza Strip in 1996, 2005 and 2006.

In an effort to bolster stability and democratic development, the NDI support program provides party-related workshops, guidance and technical consultations.  Party experts from around the world, including the Balkans, have relied on their own experiences to help Afghan party activists work with media, develop campaign strategies and platforms, create effective databases, target voters, select candidates, and much more, said Singh.

Political parties play significant roles, said Singh. They organize and mobilize citizens with common interests; translate those interests in policies; and stabilize a society by providing mechanisms for non-violent competition. So far, such parties haven’t been as successful in Afghanistan.

“They face a number of strong obstacles, including a public mistrust of parties that stems from decades of war,” said Singh. In addition, he said political parties confront a tendency towards ethnic divisions, dependency on warlords, a largely unchecked presidency, which make building party structures at the local level very difficult.

He noted a generation gap operating within many Afghan parties.
“Younger members are seeking to modernize their parties’ internal workings in the face of opposition from senior, established party leaders,” said Singh.

Security issues pose another hurdle to building effective parties.
“Afghan party members find travel among the provinces dangerous and expensive,” said Singh. “In some cases, they have to hide the training program materials they’ve received from Taliban operating roadside checkpoints. This makes it hard for parties to establish branch offices and conduct effective campaigns outside the capital area.”

Despite the challenges, Singh sees benefits of the two-year support program.

“The people who participated in the training and workshops have enthusiastically embraced the information and campaign techniques they’ve learned,” said Singh, who will submit his final report to NDI by the month’s end. “Many of the trainees are young, practical men and women, and their training often has enabled them to rise to positions of greater responsibility within their party.”

Singh Presents at National Conference

On Nov. 22, Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs Ranjit Singh presented a paper titled “Teaching Social Media and Middle East Studies” to the annual Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Conference in Washington, D.C. His paper addressed three common pedagogical challenges Arab studies instructors face as they incorporate social media into their courses. Singh then outlined a classroom exercise, inspired by the work of Hamada bin Amar, a well-known Tunisian hip hop artist, that takes advantage of the language barrier that normally exists between students and Arabic social media content.

Singh’s presentation was part of a six-person, interdisciplinary academic panel on “Social Media and Pedagogy of Middle East Studies” that he organized for this year’s national conference. The panel was sponsored by MESA’s Committee for Undergraduate Middle East Studies, which Singh helped found several years ago. The Committee is dedicated to addressing the particular needs of Middle East studies faculty and programs oriented towards serving undergraduates. Its programs focus on sharing information and ideas about pedagogy, student research and other areas of specific concern.

Nabil al-Tikriti, Associate Professor in the UMW Department of History and American Studies, served as panel chair.