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Samantha Noelle Sheppard

Assistant Professor

Schwartz Ctr-Performing Arts



Samantha N. Sheppard received her bachelor's degree in Film & Television Studies and Women and Gender Studies from Dartmouth College and her master's degree and doctorate in Cinema and Media Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. She also holds a graduate certificate in Women's Studies from UCLA's Department of Gender Studies.  

Her areas of interests extend to both fiction and nonfiction cinematic modes to consider their historical and affective power. Her research projects stem from a fundamental curiosity in the relationship between cinema and Black cultural production/production cultures, particularly popular Black cultural expression and African American media and representation. She studies how the Black body has been represented by white mainstream culture, asserting that Black embodiment conveys an historical force that exceeds the constraints and biases of such a production culture. She also studies modes and production cultures of Black self-representation from the popular to revolutionary or alternative. She has done extensive research on Black independent cinema, particularly the L.A. Rebellion.  She worked on UCLA Film & Television Archive's L.A. Rebellion Preservation Project and was an invited speaker to the first academic symposium dedicated to the group, "L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema," which was a part of the Getty Foundation's Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.  

She is working on a book manuscript Sporting Blackness: Race, Embodiment, and Muscle Memory in Sports Films which explores how race plays a central role in sports films' generic representations. In considering both sports films' documentary impulse and the cinematic Black body's surplus meaning, Sporting Blackness addresses how sports cinema shapes Black sporting bodies into what Stuart Hall calls "canvases of representation," whereby the Black body is creatively staged as a mutable and fluid subject and object able to mean and mean again on screen. By focusing on blackness as less of a stable racial category and more as a moving and contested discourse and performance, Sporting Blackness takes on issues of representation in sports cinema through exploring what it means to embody, perform, play out, and contest race and the histories and images associated with Black people in American society. On the one hand, she reads how narratives and histories about Black experiences are represented in, by, and through the Black sporting body. Drawing from theories of embodiment in Film, Sports, Performance, and Critical Race Studies, on the other hand, she examines how histories represented in, by, and through cinematic Black sporting bodies include and go beyond what is represented on screen, also indexing broader histories about Black experiences in American society. Throughout this book, she focuses on and reads the Black sporting body as an expressive, communicative body with "muscle memories," embodied histories that are represented on screen and go beyond the film's diegesis, engaging social issues and conditions specific to Black lived and imagined experiences. 

Her other research interests include media feminisms, women filmmakers, sports media, cultural studies, affect studies, and American television history.    


  • Africana Studies and Research Center
  • Performing and Media Arts

Graduate Fields

  • Africana Studies




  • "Historical Contestants in On the Shoulders of Giants" in Journal of Sport & Social Issues (forthcoming)
  • Co-editor: From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry (University Press of Mississippi, 2016)
  • "Bruising Moments: Affects and the L.A. Rebellion" in The L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015)
  • "Persistently Displaced: Situated Knowledges and Interrelated Histories in 'The Spook Who Sat by the Door'" in Cinema Journal (Winter 2013)