Allyson Nadia Field’s scholarship contributes to evolving areas of study that investigate the functioning of race and representation in interdisciplinary contexts surrounding cinema. Her primary research interest is in African American film, both silent era cinema and more contemporary filmmaking practices, and is unified by two broad theoretical inquiries: how film and visual media shape perceptions of race and ethnicity, and how these media have been and can be mobilized to perpetuate or challenge social inequities. Her work is grounded in sustained archival research, integrating that material with concerns of film form, media theory, and broader cultural questions of representation.
She is the author of Uplift Cinema: The Emergence of African American Film & The Possibility of Black Modernity (Duke University Press, 2015). Uplift Cinema excavates and explores the emergence of Black filmmaking practices in the period prior to D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the proliferation of race cinema that began in the late teens. Complementing the rich body of scholarship on later African American theatrical fiction film, Uplift Cinema considers nontheatrical and nonfictional forms of filmmaking that were prominent in this period and emphasizes the major role that cinema played in the self-fashioning of Black civic life in the 1910s, in both northern cities and the rural South. Though these films are now non-extant, Field draws on a range of archival material to argue that “uplift cinema” shows how Black filmmaking developed not just as a response to representational racism in cinema and visual culture but, more importantly, constituted a positive articulation of an original engagement with the new medium.
Field is also, with Jan-Christopher Horak and Jacqueline Stewart, co-editor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015). L.A. Rebellion is the first book dedicated to the films and filmmakers of the L.A. Rebellion, a group of African and African American independent film and video artists that formed at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1970s and 1980s. The group—including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Billy Woodberry, Larry Clark, Jamaa Fanaka, and Zeinabu Irene Davis—shared a desire to create alternatives to the dominant modes of narrative, style, and practice in American cinema, works that reflected the full complexity of Black experiences. Field serves as co-curator of the L.A. Rebellion Preservation Projectof the UCLA Film & Television Archive and co-organized a major film exhibition of their work, which ran from October-December 2011 at UCLA as part of the Getty Foundation’s Pacific Standard Time and has subsequently traveled nationally and internationally.
Her research interests also include nontheatrical film. With Marsha Gordon, Field is co-editor of Screening Race in American Nontheatrical Film (Duke University Press, 2019).
Her current book project, tentatively titled Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema: American Popular Culture and Racialized Performance in Early Film, seeks to reframe American film history through the lens of racialized performance, tracing the development of tropes, themes, and practices from minstrelsy to the vaudeville stage and motion picture screen. In doing so, it attempts to make legible the functionings of minstrelsy’s forms within American cinema, understand its complex negotiations of race in a rapidly changing social order, and explore moments of creative resistance to its dehumanizing portrayals of African Americans. In support of this project, Field was named a 2019 Academy Film Scholar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a 2020 Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellow by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).
Recent Online Publications
"Glenville." Black One Shot 14.2 ASAP/Journal. August 27, 2020
“Black Cinema at Its Birth.” Criterion’s The Current. March 3, 2020
“No Blackface… just #BlackLove.” Domitor Snapshots. October 2019
“A Portrait of Love, Grief, and Injustice: Strong Island (Yance Ford, 2017).” Docalogue. April 2018
- Film and the Moving Image (Spring 2022 - CMST 14400)
- Research Design and Archival Theory and Practice for Cinema and Media Studies (Spring 2022 - CMST 29022 / 39022)
Previous courses taught include: Minstrelsy-Vaudeville-Cinema: Racialized Performance and American Popular Culture (CMST 61820), History of International Cinema, Part I: Silent Era (CMST 28500 / 48500)The L.A. Rebellion and the Politics of Black Cinema (CMST 61102), and African American Cinema 1900-1950 (CMST 21019 / 31019)