Leila Christine Nadir is an Afghan-American artist, writer, and teacher working with the mediums of narrative, food, environment, and social practice. Her artworks and essays explore memory and healing in a range of contexts, from the experience of being part of the Afghan diaspora to the recovery of ancient food practices buried by the industrial food system to her lifelong effort to understand the intermix of ethnicity and trauma that defined her childhood. Memory and healing, the focus of her professional work, have been an obsession for as long as she can remember: as a child, she tape-recorded family conversations and replayed them over and over, fascinated by the passage of time, the disintegration of memory, and the insight gained by taking a closer look. Known for her collaborations with artist Cary Peppermint, Leila’s primary creative focus today is writing her memoir, Bad Muslim, about her childhood growing up within the colorful, turbulent marriage of her Afghan, Muslim father and Slovak-American, Catholic mother, who together raised seven children. Chapters and essays from this project are in publication.
A Mellon Foundation fellow and New York Foundation for the Arts fellow, Leila earned her PhD in English & Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her essays have appeared in North American Review, Asian American Review, Aster(ix), Leonardo, Rhizome.org, among other places, including American Scientist, for which she writes a regular column on artists engaging science. Her scholarship has received the Eugenio Battisti Award and the Arthur O. Lewis Award from the Society of Utopian Studies, and her creative projects have been supported by the Whitney Museum of Art, New Museum, Neuberger Museum of Art, M.I.T. Media Lab, UCLA Sci|Art Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Banff New Media Institute, and New York State Council on the Arts. Leila is currently Lecturer in Sustainability & Environmental Humanities at the University of Rochester, where she is leading the creation of the new Environmental Humanities Program. She has taught previously at Columbia University, Wellesley College, Colgate University, and Oneonta State College.