Ellen Wu

Associate Professor, Department of History

Director, Asian American Studies Program

Affiliated Faculty, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

The issues that animate my research grapple with problems of race, citizenship, and migration through the lens of Asian American history. My first book, The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority (Princeton, 2014), tells of the astonishing makeover of Asians in the United States from the “yellow peril” to “model minorities” in the middle decades of the twentieth century. It charts this transformation within the dual contexts of the United States’ global rise and the black freedom movement. The Color of Success reveals that this far-reaching, politically charged process continues to have profound implications for how Americans understand race, opportunity, and nationhood.

My current book project, Overrepresented, places Asian Americans at the center of the intersecting histories of race-making, policy, and democracy in the age of affirmative action. Overrepresented takes a multidisciplinary approach to examining the problem of Asian American social standing and opportunity in the face of sweeping changes over the past half-century: the rise of affirmative action and kindred policies intended to promote racial equality, large-scale immigration from Asia, and widening economic inequalities. Together, these challenges prompt a rethinking of what it means to be a “minority” in post-civil rights America.

Questions of relationships between the foreign and the domestic also fuel my work as a teacher. My courses explore such themes as the inextricable connections between migration and the race in the United States, Cold War America, and the United States' Pacific entanglements from multiple vantage points.

Honors and Awards

  • Indiana University New Frontiers of Creativity and Scholarship Grant, 2018
  • Indiana Minority Business Magazine “Champion of Diversity” Award, 2017

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2015-2016

  • Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Diversity-International Outreach Fellowship, 2012

  • Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2010-2011

  • The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Historical Studies Residential Fellowship, 2010-2011

  • Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts & Humanities Grant, 2010

Research Interests

  • 20th Century US History
  • Asian American History
  • Race 
  • Migration
  • Citizenship


  • B.A., B.S. at Indiana University Bloomington
  • M.A. at University of California, Los Angeles
  • Ph.D. at University of Chicago

Courses Taught

  • Asian American History
  • America's Pacific
  • The United States and China: Crises and Opportunities 
  • Busting the Melting Pot Myth: Migration, Race, and Nation in Modern America
  • America in the 1950s
  • Twentieth Century US History


  • The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.
    • Association for Asian American Studies History Book Prize, 2016
    • Immigration and Ethnic History Society, Honorable Mention, Theodore Saloutos Book Award, 2015
    • Immigration and Ethnic History Society, First Book Award, 2015
  • “GI Joe Nisei: The Invention of World War II’s Iconic Japanese American Soldier,”  in Warring Over Valor, ed. Simon Wendt (Rutgers University Press, 2018).

  • “The Invention of the Model Minority,” in The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies, ed. Cindy I-Fen Cheng (Routledge Press, 2016).  

  • “Deghettoizing Chinatown: Race and Space in Postwar America,” in Race and Retail, eds. Mia Bay and Ann Fabian (Rutgers University Press, 2015).
  • “‘America’s Chinese’: Anti-Communism, Citizenship, and Cultural Diplomacy during the Cold War,” Pacific Historical Review 77, no. 3 (August 2008): 391-422.
  • “Chinese American Transnationalism Aboard the ‘Love Boat’: The Overseas Chinese Youth Language Training and Study Tour to the Republic of China,” Chinese America: History and Perspectives (2005): 51-64.
  • With Nakanishi, Don T. Distinguished Asian American Political and Government Leaders. Phoenix, AZ: Greenwood Press, 2002.