A Life in Service

Tanesha Singletary at the Elephant Sanctuary in Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Tanesha Singletary at the Elephant Sanctuary in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

My name is Tanesha Singletary, and I am a second year Masters candidate in International Affairs at American University’s School of International Service (SIS). At SIS, I am a part of the Comparative and Regional Studies program with a regional focus on the Middle East. My interests in the field range from nationalism, identity, and ideology to power politics and diplomacy. I decided upon the Comparative and Regional Studies program as opposed to other International Relations focused programs because I aim to focus more on how politics affect the people and nation-state within a region.

In this regard, I take heavily from the field of Anthropology and its idea of etic-emic. Etic is a perspective taken by anthropologists in which they approach their research from the lens of an outsider (them) looking into a particular group (the other). Emic, on the contrary, is when an anthropologist aims to understand how a particular group views themselves and not how those outside their group views their actions. In politics, especially International Relations, it is easy for the scale to lean more towards the etic side; on the contrary, my leanings were heavily weighted on bolstering the idea of taking a solely emic approach. However, over time, I have come to realize that one must maintain both views. Just as it is impossible for an outsider to truly understand what life is like for those within a particular group even if one immerses themselves within the culture, it is also impossible to be completely devoid of any innate bias because we all have our own personal narrative.

It is my personal narrative that drew me to EPIC and its mission. Though it sounds much too cliche, I come from humble beginnings. During the early years of my life, I was privy to a number of social issues that have shaped the way I view the world and my role in it. Due to such experiences, I have been a part of numerous organizations engaged in social justice; I wanted to be an aid those of similar struggles and enable socially marginalized youth to have a voice because I was all too aware of what it was like to be silent. As I continued my studies, that original passion shifted from the domestic sphere to the international sphere.

However, as I became more immersed in International Relations theory, I became less and less focused on the idea of having a direct impact person by person and more on having an ideational impact, changing the way we look at particular states and state-state relations. In a sense, the position of Research and Advocacy Intern at EPIC allows me to go back to my roots with its emphasis on humanitarian relief and civic and political engagement. However, it also takes such a foundation and incorporates it into my current focus on the history and politics of state and society in the MENA and the use of critical theory in terms of our approach in the region. As an EPIC Intern, I am excited to not just look at the region as a whole or through a comparative lens but by getting country-specific and immersing myself in everything that is and has come to form modern-day Iraq.

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