Aya Labanieh is a Syrian-American writer, translator, academic, and aspiring stand-up comedian. She is a Ph.D. candidate in the English and Comparative Literature Department, and currently works as Research Associate for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. Her dissertation focuses on imperial conspiracies and their conspiracy theory afterlives in postcolonial Middle Eastern literature and media. Her other publications have engaged with a wide variety of related topics: Arabic science fiction, translation in settler-colonial contexts, comedic contestations of modernity, ancient Babylonian receptions in Arabic literature, critical museology, and transformations of sexuality under pressures of modernization and colonialism. Her scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Arabic Literature, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, MOSF Journal of Science Fiction, and edited volumes Global Science Fiction and Approaches to Teaching Gilgamesh. Her public-facing writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Aeon magazine, Ancient Exchanges, Culturico and Politics/Letters.
Moreover, she is deeply invested in the public humanities, and has led multiple projects to bridge the gaps between academia, literature, and local communities. Her most recent project was in collaboration with the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, titled, “GATE: From Babylon to Berlin” (2023), which invited migrant Middle Eastern artists to reflect on their connections to the ancient Babylonian past under the Ishtar Gate, through original poetry and musical performances. She serves as a Public Humanities Fellow on the “Speaking with Spirituality” podcasting project, which documents the histories of feminist, antiracist, and queer-affirming activism in Black Harlem churches (2021-2024), and was a Fellow and Assistant Curator for the Zip Code Memory Project (2021-2022) and its Imagine Repair exhibition (2022), which was dedicated to memorializing the disproportionate effects of Covid-19 on black and brown neighborhoods in the Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx.
Aya has served as writing instructor at Columbia University and a TA at both Columbia and Barnard, and she has been awarded the Lead Teaching Fellowship by Columbia’s Center for Teaching and Learning. She will join the cohort of Literary Humanities Core Preceptors in the Fall of 2024.