Contact Information

Office: Dana-Palmer 203

Office Hours: Fall 2024 Office Hours TBA



Annette Damayanti Lienau

Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature

Research Fields: (Post)-Colonial Studies; Afro-Asian Comparatisms; African and Caribbean Francophone Literatures; Modern and Classical Arabic Literature; Egyptian Colloquial Literature; Indonesian Studies and Malay Language Literature; Senegalese Literature (Wolof); Transnationalism and World Literature. Research Languages include: Arabic, Egyptian Colloquial, French, Bahasa Indonesia, Wolof.

Education: Ph.D. Yale University (Comparative Literature), 2011; Certificate of Arabic Studies, Center for Arabic Studies Abroad, American University in Cairo, 2007; M.A. Middlebury College (French), 2003; B.A. Wellesley College, 2002.

Professor Lienau’s core research uses the legacy of the Arabic language as a lens for comparative studies of post-colonial literature, offering an alternative approach to the often binary (colonial/post-colonial) constructions used in more isolated studies of national literatures. Drawing on an extensive background in comparative Arabic, Indonesian, African, and Francophone writing, her research explores cultural and historical dynamics not fully explained by a single colonial legacy. Her work has been generously supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council. She was previously awarded a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA, and several competitive grants from Yale University. She was the co-recipient of a Mellon Sawyer Seminar Grant with colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Current Book Project: Professor Lienau’s current book project, Sacred Language, Vernacular Difference: Global Arabic and Counter-Imperial Asian and African Literatures, engages with the political and cultural legacy of Arabic as a sacralized language, underscoring its changing symbolic value across the twentieth century in West African, Southeast Asian, and Middle Eastern contexts. The project considers the extent to which a common linguistic situation—the historical use of the Arabic script for vernacular languages, and the preservation of the Arabic language as a sacred, religious medium—has influenced the evolution of literatures in three national cases with distinct imperial legacies: Senegal, controlled by the French, Indonesia by the Dutch, and Egypt by the Ottoman Empire and subsequently by the British Empire. It examines how Arabic, as a sacred, religious medium, impacted the formation of national literatures in ways that contrast with vernacular, European literatures evolving from a Latin ecumenical context. This project also traces the ways in which regions in West Africa and Southeast Asia, once culturally unified through the common use of the Arabic script, were later divided through the colonial introduction of European languages.

Secondary Projects: For a subsequent book project, Professor Lienau will be exploring materials on the cultural memory and literary traces of mass uprisings in Indonesia (1998) and Egypt (2011), assessing these major historical transitions alongside their joint implications for (post)-colonial studies towards the turn of the twenty first century.

Recent Publications:

  • “Vernacular Comparisons Beyond the Europhone (ACLA Forum),” Comparative Literature, June 2018 (70:2) – (Forum Guest Editor).
  • “Re-Framing Vernacular Culture on Arabic Fault Lines: Bamba, Senghor, and Sembene’s Translingual Legacies in French West Africa,” PMLA, March 2015 (130:2).
  • “The Ideal of Casteless Language in Pramoedya’s Arok Dedes,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Winter 2012 (32:3).

Service: Professor Lienau has served as an advisory editor for the journal “boundary 2” and previously served on the Modern Language Association’s Executive Committee for 20th and 21st Century Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. She is currently a faculty advisor for the Southeast Asia Lecture series at Harvard’s Asia Center.

Sacred Language, Vernacular Difference: Global Arabic and Counter-Imperial Literatures

Annette Damayanti Lienau

January 2023