Allyson Nadia Field, Interim Director
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.
Nigel O’Hearn, Center Coordinator
1010 E. 59th Street,
As Coordinator of The Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture, Nigel manages the Center’s finances, communications, and daily operations. Nigel earned an A.M. in the Humanities from the University of Chicago, focusing in Theatre and Performance Studies. Prior to joining the Scherer Center, Nigel held positions with the University of Chicago’s Master of Arts Program in the Humanities as well as the university’s Writing Program. Outside his work at UChicago, Nigel is a playwright and poet whose works have been staged at various theaters across the country.