- Associate Professor, Department of History; Director, Asian American Studies Program; and Affiliated Faculty, Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society
- IU Bloomington
OVERREPRESENTED places Asian Americans at the center of the intersecting histories of race-making, policy, and democracy in age of affirmative action. Three burning questions animate this study. First, how and why has “Asian American” taken hold as a salient social, political, and legal identity from the 1960s onward? Second, how and why have Asian Americans been left out of the category of the “underrepresented minority” even as they have been treated by the state as a racial minority group? Third, what have been the consequences of this omission, both intended and unintended? Contemporaries have viewed Asian Americans as an “overrepresented” minority in a double sense: first, as an economically privileged minority racial group that has not needed 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 have been thought of as 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 since the 1960s.
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 Successreveals 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.