Resisting colonialism at Oxford

Global Study UK is a company that promotes British universities by organising student fairs in various countries. One of its fairs will be taking place in Lebanon next month.

Ahead of the fair, Global Study UK posted a tweet which said:

Many Reasons to Study for British Degree! 1. Fees are Less than In Lebanon 2. 3yr Bachelor / 1yr Master 3. You Learn TOLERANCE & Equality

Amid some Twitter debate about whether fees at British universities are really lower than those in Lebanon, Antoine Haddad of the Lebanese Democratic Renewal Movement commented that tolerance and equality are "by far the most relevant among the three mentioned reasons" for studying in Britain.

This prompted a furious riposte from Twitter user @snarwani who said:

Really, u're going to send yr Arab kid to learn "tolerance & equality" from your old colonials? #Westoxified

For good measure, @snarwani added:

Brits KILL with impunity in this part of world. #Racism

This outburst might scarcely be worth noting – except that @snarwani is the Twitter name of Sharmine Narwani, a Senior Associate at St Antony’s College, Oxford University. 

Far from shunning the "westoxifying" influence of British universities (as her tweets recommend), Ms Narwani seems keen to advertise her Oxford connection – not only in her Twitter profile but also when she writes articles about the Middle East.

Political commentaries under her name have been published by Huffington Postal-Jazeera and the Asia Times, all citing her position as a senior associate at Oxford.

For a commentator on the politics of the Middle East this is obviously a valuable cachet to have, since it provides an air of authority and academic respectability.

But what, exactly, does "senior associate" mean? The website of St Anthony's college explains:

The College has about 60 Senior Associate Members each year. Senior Associate members, or SAMs as they are known, are usually academics on sabbatical leave, who wish to come to the College to work within the regional Centres and/or with particular Fellows for varying periods of time from one term to one academic year.

Another part of the college website says:

Senior Associate Members are normally visitors to the College and the University for periods of up to a year who are pursuing a specific research objective of their own. 

Ms Narwani's research project, according to the website is "The rise of the 'Resistance Bloc' in the Middle East: Shifting power centres and changing world views."

Maybe her research is proving unduly difficult or complex, because it seems to be taking rather a long time. The normal time limit for a senior associate at St Antony's (according to its website) is one year but a check on the internet shows Ms Narwani has now held her senior associate title for well over two years. St Antony's College must be a very tolerant place.