Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

7/1/2015 - 6/30/2016

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Asian Americans in the Age of Affirmative Action

FAIN: FA-58556-15

Ellen Dionne Wu
Trustees of Indiana University (Bloomington, IN 47405-7000)

OVERREPRESENTED places Asian Americans at the center of the intersecting histories of race-making and policy-making in the late-twentieth century United States. Contemporaries saw Asian Americans as what I call an "overrepresented" minority in a double sense: first, as an economically privileged minority racial group that did not need new rights and programs to guarantee equal opportunity, and second, as too successful and therefore a threat to white privilege. In other words, Asian Americans were ostensibly different than other "underrepresented" minorities. The peculiar standing of Asian Americans as "overrepresented" has much to teach us about the fundamental importance of Asian Americans and Asia to the recalibration of the nation's racial order and political alignments in the post-civil rights era.

Media Coverage

A California Proposition Could Reinstate Affirmative Action. Why Are Some Asian Americans Against It? (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Edwin Rios
Publication: The Nation
Date: 11/2/2020
Abstract: Interview with Ellen Wu about her research for book project OVERREPRESENTED. Much of this research was conducted with the support of the NEH fellowship

Associated Products

"Racial Limbo: Asian Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era" (Blog Post)
Title: "Racial Limbo: Asian Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era"
Author: Ellen Wu
Abstract: This blog post discusses the driving questions propelling my NEH-funded book project, "Asian Americans in the Age of Affirmative Action." I place these questions in the context of the current-day debate on Asian Americans and college admissions (specifically, whether or not elite universities such as Harvard discriminate against Asians in admissions selections).
Date: 07/09/2015
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: This blog is the official blog of Indiana University Bloomington's Office of the Provost & Exec Vice President. It showcases "behind-the scenes looks at the people and experience who make IU such a special place."
Website: Through the Gates: Stories & News: Office of the Provost & Exec Vice President, Indiana University Bloomington

“Overrepresentation: Asian Americans and the Conundrums of Statistical Mirroring” (Book Section)
Title: “Overrepresentation: Asian Americans and the Conundrums of Statistical Mirroring”
Author: Ellen Wu
Editor: Danielle Allen and Rohini Somanathan
Abstract: This chapter traces the racialization of Asian Americans in the years since the advent of affirmative action in the 1960s United States. I argue that Asian Americans came to be considered an "overrepresented" minority group and therefore generally ineligible for inclusion in affirmative action programs. At the same time, Asian Americans themselves protested this exclusion, arguing that they were indeed bona fide "minorities" entitled to affirmative action protections. Since 2000, increasing numbers of Asian Americans have protested their characterization as unfair and have simultaneously argued for the elimination of affirmative action in college admissions. The history of the "overrepresentation" concept illuminates the centrality of proportionality thinking and statistical data in US race-making since the 1960s. "Overrepresentation” calls into question—if not upending altogether—reigning approaches to representation, fairness, and racial justice at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
Year: 2017
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: My book chapter is the outcome of an invitation to participate in the multi-disciplinary "Diversity, Justice, and Democracy" workshop hosted by Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. The Center hosted three-stage workshop (2015-2016) on the subject of diversity, justice, and democracy with the goal of producing an intellectually coherent and paradigm-changing edited volume. The goal of the workshop is to produce an answer to the question of how to achieve fair and just forms of democratic life in conditions of significant demographic diversity. The edited volume, "Difference Without Domination," is slated to be sent to the University of Chicago press for review by late 2016/early 2017
Access Model: I don't know
Publisher: University of Chicago Press (soon to be under review)
Book Title: Difference Without Domination

"Nikki Haley and the American Dream" (Blog Post)
Title: "Nikki Haley and the American Dream"
Author: Ellen Wu
Abstract: This blog post compares the career of South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the daughter of immigrants from India, to earlier Asian Americans prominent in electoral politics (Senators Dalip Singh Saund, Hiram Fong, Daniel Inouye). Like her predecessors, Haley has risen to prominence amidst national turmoil over race relations. All have been "model minorities"--exemplars of assimilation, political moderation, and patriotism. I argue that "model minority" characterization has not protected Haley (and others) from anti-immigrant sentiment and Islamophobia. Her story highlights the distance between the "American Dream" as an promise and the as-yet-to-be-achieved substantive reality for all Americans.
Date: 01/20/2016
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Princeton University Press's "Election 101" blog features PUP authors discussing matters related to the 2016 presidential election in the United States. "Drawing on the work of scholars in fields from history through political science, political theory, economics, and sociology, [PUP] will be featuring a brand of analytical commentary that will add substance to the spin that drives the political debates."
Website: Election 101 (Princeton University Press blog)

Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship (Staff/Faculty/Fellow Position)
Name: Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship
Abstract: Fellowship to support research/writing of book manuscript OVERREPRESENTED: ASIAN AMERICANS IN THE AGE OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Year: 2020
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship Awardees

New America Class of 2022 National Fellowship (Staff/Faculty/Fellow Position)
Name: New America Class of 2022 National Fellowship
Abstract: Awarded New America Class of 2022 National Fellowship to support research and writing of OVERREPRESENTED: THE SURPRISING HISTORY OF ASIAN AMERICANS AND RACIAL JUSTICE
Year: 2021
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: New America Fellows bio