Leila Essa is Assistant Professor in Comparative Literature. Having been awarded an NWO Veni grant for 2022-25, she currently conducts a research project on authorial strategies against exclusionary discourses in Germany and Britain in affiliation with the university's Institute for Cultural Inquiry.

Leila regularly writes and talks about literature and its politics on public platforms, e.g. for Zeit Online or the Goethe Institute. She is one of the authors of the anthology anders bleiben and, as of 2023, a judge for the Kurt-Tucholsky-Preis for politically engaged writing in German. Her academic work has appeared in journals like Comparative Literature Studies and the book project building on her PhD thesis 'Partitioned Nations, Shared Narratives: Contemporary Novels on India and Germany' won the Women in German Studies Book Prize 2021. She is a member of the Editorial Board for Forum for Modern Language Studies and the Advisory Board for FRAME Journal of Literary Studies.

She obtained her degrees in literary studies from King’s College London (BA, 2014, and PhD, 2020) and the University of Cambridge (MPhil, 2015). Her doctoral research, which involved extensive study visits to Jawaharlal Nehru University, was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. She taught in both the Comp Lit and German departments at King’s as a PhD student and then took up the position of Teaching Fellow in German at Trinity College Dublin in 2020. In 2021 she joined the Comp Lit section at Utrecht University as a Lecturer and was appointed permanently as Assistant Professor one year later.