Ellen D. Wu

Associate Professor of History, Indiana University Bloomington

Ellen Wu researches, teaches, and writes about race, migration, and belonging in United States 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.

Currently Professor Wu am writing Overrepresented, forthcoming from Princeton University Press. This book places Asian Americans at the center of the history of racial justice to tell a new story about diversity, data, and democracy in the United States. Overrepresented deep dives into this surprising history of racial justice to show how Asian Americans became the wild card of US race relations. Their example makes clear that race is neither fixed nor predictable—and that so-called “model minorities” have the willpower to disrupt the status quo of American politics.

As part of the research for Overrepresented, Professor Wu has dipped her toe into social media analysis. This is possible thanks to the partnerships with School of Informatics masters students Himani Bhatt, Li Isabelle Feng, and Feifan Wu through IU's Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities and Program for Faculty Assistance in Data Science.

Questions of relationships between the foreign and the domestic fuel her work as a teacher. Her courses tackle such themes as migration, war in American life, and the United States' Pacific empire and relations to Asia from multiple vantage points.

Professor Wu’s work has been featured or cited in a variety of scholarly and public-facing venues, including Modern American History, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR’s Code Switch, Adam Ruins Everything, goop, Marie Claire, the PBS documentary series Asian Americans, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Bloomington's Limestone Post.

Between 2015-2020 Professor Wu directed IUB's Asian American Studies program. Check out the history of the program in "Past, Present, and Future," a digital exhibit co-curated by Stephanie Nguyen, Zack Hegarty, and me for Indiana University's Bicentennial Celebration.

Professor Wu has served on the board of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society and the Indiana Advisory Committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Not least, she is interested in everything about food.

Ellen D. Wu