Dr. Layla Zami is an innovative academic and artist working with words, music, sounds, performance, and video. Born in Paris, France in 1985, Zami gains inspiration from a rich Jewish-Russian-German and Afro-Caribbean-Indian heritage.
Zami is Postdoctoral Researcher in Performance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin with an appointment in the Collaborative Research Centre on Intervening Arts funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG - SFB1512 Intervenierende Künste / FU Berlin - Institut für Theaterwissenschaft). Her scholarship interweaves performance studies, cultural memory studies, gender studies, diaspora studies, creative writing, and speculative spacetime. She is the author of Contemporary PerforMemory: Dancing Through Spacetime, Historical Trauma, and Diaspora in the 21st Century (transcript publishing / Columbia University Press, 2020).
Zami teaches as an Adj. Associate Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute, Berlin Study Abroad Program. She spent several powerful years in New York, where she worked as Visiting Assistant Professor on Pratt’s main campus in Brooklyn. There, she held research, teaching, and advising responsibilities in the Graduate Program in Performance and Performance Studies and in the Departments of Humanities and Media Studies, History of Art & Design, and Art & Design Education. She was a Co-Chair of Black Lives Matter at Pratt in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She was a Visiting Research Scholar at Columbia University, Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and at the University of California San Diego, Department of Theatre & Dance.
She proudly holds a Ph.D. from the Center for Transdisciplinary Gender Studies at Humboldt-University, Berlin, where she received the Teaching Award, First Prize from the Faculty of Humanities, Social and Cultural Sciences (Fakultätspreis für gute Lehre). Her research was funded by a Doctoral Fellowship from ELES and the German Federal Department of Education (2013-2016). Other Awards and grants include funding from Humanities New York, Zurückgeben Foundation for Jewish Women in Arts & Sciences, the French Ministry of Youth (Bourse Envie d'Agir), and the Modern Language Association (MLA).
Zami’s academic and creative writing in German, English and French appeared in Women & Performance, Dance Research Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, Wendy's Subway, among others. She published with the presses w_orten&meer, Orlanda Frauenverlag and Hentrich & Hentrich. Zami currently serves on the Editorial Board of Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies (DSA). During her time in NYC, she served on the Bessies Committee, the Dance/NYC Symposium Programming Committee (Founding Member) and the Immigrants. Dance. Arts. Research Initiative, a joint initiative of the Dance/NYC and NYC Mayor's Office.
As an Interdisciplinary Artist-in-Residence with Oxana Chi Dance & Art, Layla Zami creates and performs music (saxophone, kalimba, chalumeau, loops), poetry and physical theater. She toured with the company at festivals, theaters and events in the USA, Canada, France, Finland, Serbia, Martinique, Taiwan, Indonesia, Turkey, India, Ghana, the UK, and all across Germany.
Tour history includes venues and events such as Volksbühne, Hebbel am Ufer Theater (HAU), Schauspiel Dortmund, Jüdische Musik- und Theaterwochen Dresden, Abrons Arts Center, 1014 NY Past & Future Festival, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!), Taipei Fringe Festival, Delhi International Queer Theatre & Film Festival and a keynote performance for the Black German Heritage & Research Association at the University of Toronto.
She presented and performed at universities such as The New School, Rutgers University Philadelphia; Goldsmith University London; Bielefeld University; Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts (HfMDK); Europa-University Viadrina; Yeditepe University Istanbul; Tampere University Finland and many more. Zami enjoyed collaborative Artist Residencies with Oxana Chi in Martinique at La Maison Rouge: Maison des Arts and in New York at The Brick Theater, the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and LABA: A Laboratory For Jewish Culture at the 14th St. Y.
Zami completed the Bootcamp for Performing Artists offered by the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA 2015) and obtained a Musicianship Certificate from the Berklee College of Music via Coursera (2019). She holds a Saxophone Diploma from the Conservatory of Music in Le Mans, France (2001) and is grateful to have learned from and with outstanding artists and pedagogues in Berlin, Paris and New York: musicians Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq and Parageet, dancers Oxana Chi, Bilonda Bukasa, and Pat Hall, martial artists Mestre Grande da Bahia (capoeira), Xiao Lin (Kung Fu), Michel Assouvie (Tai Chi Chuan), yogis Gopan, Surinder Ji, Pilin Anice, acting talents Suheer Saleh and Nils-Zdenek Kühn.
Other qualifications include a bilingual M.A. from the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs and a year abroad as an exchange student at University of Cape Town (Center for African Studies). Additional professional experiences have included research and event management in the science and technology branch for Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, as well as in the non-profit sphere at the AfricAvenir International Headquarters in Douala and at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. Layla Zami also worked at the French Parliament as a close collaborator to Christiane Taubira, former Head of the French Department of Justice, who passed important laws in the fields of diversity and inclusion.
In collaboration with Oxana Chi, Layla Zami co-curated transdisciplinary events for the Leo-Baeck-Institute / Dagesh (Transitions, Jewish Festival for Contemporary Arts, 2021), the City University of New York (Moving Archives conference 2018), Technical University Berlin – Stadt der Zukunft (International Symposium-Festival Moving Memory, 2016) and the Dixon Place Theater. Together, they were Co-Curators of Dance for the International Human Rights Art Festival (IHRAF), and co-produced the documentary-fiction film Dancing Through Gardens.
100 words bio
Dr. Layla Zami is an innovative academic and interdisciplinary artist. She is Postdoctoral Researcher in Performance Studies at Freie Universität Berlin (CRC Intervening Arts) and Adj. Associate Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. Zami is the author of Contemporary PerforMemory (transcript / CUP, 2020), and her work orbits around the nexus of cultural memory, corporeality, performance, diaspora, language, and spacetime. As an Interdisciplinary Resident Artist with the dance company Oxana Chi Dance & Art, Layla Zami creates and performs music, sounds, spoken words and physical theater. The duo gratefully and gracefully performed and presented across the globe.