Not available in 2019/20

SO4A9      Half Unit
White Screens/Black Images: The Sociology of Black Cinema

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Clive Nwonka STC.S105


This course is available on the MSc in Culture and Society. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course will also be available to students from Media and Communications

Course content

The aim of this course is to consider the politics of race in contemporary Black British and American cinema and visual practice and reflect on almost 60 years of black cinema vis-a-vis the social, institutional, textual, cultural and political shifts that have occurred during this period. These considerations are to be explored through the optic of film and moving image, from sociological, political and cultural studies perspectives. From the Black-led community films of the 1980’s that sought to expose British state-led racism, to the new forms of filmic representation that emerged in the 2000’s, to the mainstream, Hollywood attempts to create space for cultural diversity, the term ‘Black film’ remains a significant, potent but contested concept with a range of interpretations and expressions within it. The course will explore these varying definitions through past, emerging and future forms of black cinema and how these forms have and continue to both penetrate and subvert mainstream definitions. But what is Black British and American cinema? How do such films, however defined, produce meaning through visual culture, and what are the political, social and aesthetic motivations and effects? How are the new forms of Black British and American film facilitating new modes of representation, authorship and socio-political engagement? Seminars will draw upon a range of case studies that reveal change and continuity in contemporary representations of race and blackness and identity, and also the socio-political and institutional agendas that underpin them.


20 hours of seminars in the LT.

The course will comprise of a two hour seminar each week. This will offer the students a theoretical grounding in the subject, whilst also encouraging students to critically engage with the case studies and key reading texts.


Reading Weeks: Students on this course will have a reading week in LT Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the LT.

The formative assessment will comprise of a 1000 word outline of the student’s summative essay, to include a 200 word abstract. Students will be expected to refer to the key texts, readings and theoretical frameworks explored throughout the course through an analysis on a film text of their choice that is germane to the courses themes. Students will be expected to present this outline during week 10, where they will receive both verbal and written feedback for their ideas. Further, students will be expected to critically engage and discuss fellow student’s outlines and offer constructive feedback, with reference to the course teachings and key readings.

Indicative reading

Field, A (2015) L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema. California: University of California Press

Friedman, Lester D (ed) (1991) Unspeakable Images Ethnicity and the American Cinema. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Malik, S. (2002). Representing black Britain: Black and Asian images on television. London, UK: Sage.

Mercer, K. (1988). Black film, British cinema. London, UK: ICA Documents

Olusoga, D (2016) Black and British: A Forgotten History. London: Pan

Snead, J (1994) White Screens/Black Images: Hollywood from the Dark Side. London and New York: Routledge

Stam, R. (2000) Film Theory: An Introduction. Malden, Massachusetts & Oxford: Blackwell Publishers;

Thornham, S. (ed) (1999), Feminist Film Theory: a reader, New York: New York University Press;

Turner, G. (1999, third edition) Film as Social Practice, London and New York: Routledge;

Young, L (1995) Fear of the Dark: 'Race', Gender and Sexuality in the Cinema. London: Routledge


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

The Summative Assessment is by a coursework essay of 4000 words (worth 100%) Students will identify their own essay title (which needs to be approved by the course convenor) that will refer to the teaching, themes and readings on the course. Students will be expected to produce an essay that considers the social, political, cultural and textual dimensions that shape the making of race and blackness within film texts.

An electronic copy of the assessed essay, to be uploaded to Moodle, no later than 4.00pm on the submission day.

Attendance at all classes and submission of all set coursework is required.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2018/19: 8

Average class size 2018/19: 8

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills