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Professor Henry Yu was born in Vancouver, B.C., and grew up in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. He received his BA in Honours History from UBC and an MA and PhD in History from Princeton University. After teaching at UCLA for a decade, Yu returned to UBC as an Associate Professor of History to help build programs focused on trans-Pacific Canada. Yu himself is both a second and fourth generation Canadian. His parents were first generation immigrants from China, joining a grandfather who had spent almost his entire life in Canada. His great-grandfather was also an early Chinese pioneer in British Columbia, part of a larger networks of migrants who left Zhongshan county in Guangdong province in South China and settled around the Pacific in places such as Australia, New Zealand, Hawai’i, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, the United States, and Canada. Prof. Yu’s book, Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America (Oxford University Press, 2001) won the Norris and Carol Hundley Prize as the Most Distinguished Book of 2001, and he is currently working on a book entitled How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes: Finding Ourselves in History. Currently, he is the Director of the Initiative for Student Teaching and Research on Chinese Canadians (INSTRCC) and the Principal of St. John’s College at UBC, as well as a Board Member of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia (CCHSBC).

No CV information.

Research Interests

Global Vancouver
Trans-Pacific migration
American intellectual history
Asian Canadian and Asian American history
Race and immigration
Social Science and Social Theory in US and Europe
Public History and History Education


Henry Yu is involved in the collaborative effort to reimagine the history of Vancouver and of British Columbia through the concept of “Pacific Canada,” a perspective that focuses on how migrants from Asia, Europe, and other parts of the Americas engaged with each other and with First Nations peoples historically. Read “Our Own Not-So-Quiet Revolution”(link is external) and Prof. Yu’s essay “Global Migrants and the New Pacific Canada,”(link is external) written for the 25th Anniversary of the Asia Pacific Foundation. Also visit Henry Yu’s blog “Past Present” at is external).



Prof. Yu spoke about the concept of “Pacific Canada”(link is external) at Sam Sullivan’s Public Salon (link is external)on June 5, 2013 in Vancouver BC.


Prof. Yu is currently the Principal of St. John’s Graduate College(link is external), UBC’s international graduate college, and served as its Associate Principal from 2005-2009.

Prof. Yu is also the Director of the Initiative for Student Teaching and Research in Chinese Canadian Studies (INSTRCC), the first stage of a long term commitment at UBC to the study of trans-Pacific migrations and the long history of interactions between Asian and European migrants and First Nations peoples in Pacific Canada. Please visit is external) for more information. Watch a series of films entitled “Eating Global Vancouver” that were made by students working with professional film maker Karin Lee at is external).

In 2012, Prof. Yu was a member of the committee that organized the granting of honorary degrees from UBC for the 76 Japanese Canadian UBC students who were removed from the west coast in 1942. Many of these students were unable to complete their studies or to attend their graduation, and their belated recognition as UBC alumni was part of a remarkable ceremony in May 2012 on the 70th anniversary of their forcible removal from their school and homes. See is external) for more.

Prof. Yu is committed to expanding the engagement between academic research and the communities which the university serves. He was the Project Lead for a $1.17 million project entitled “Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past” ( is external). Receiving $950,000 from the Community Historical Recognition Program of the Canadian Federal government, this project aimed to gather the ignored histories of Chinese Canadians and to use the latest in new media technologies to present a new understanding of our common history. As part of the project, Prof. Yu’s research team collaborated with the Spatial History Lab at Stanford University in creating state of the art visualizations of historical data. See them at the Stanford website(link is external).

Prof. Yu served between 2010-2012 as a Co-Chair, along with Susan Tatoosh of the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Center(link is external) and Councillor Wade Grant of the Musqueam Nation, of the City of Vancouver’s “Dialogues Between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal, and Immigrant Communities in Vancouver,”(link is external) a unique and important series of projects that aimed to promote engagements between communities that are often considered separately.

In 2005, Prof. Yu and Teaching Assistant Jennifer Lau took students from classes at UBC and UCLA on a unique six week summer field course comparing Asian migration and its effects on Vancouver and Los Angeles. Entitled “Eating Our Way from Vancouver to LA,” the popular course focused on food and restaurants as a way of understanding cultural change. In the summer of 2007, Prof. Yu took an even larger group of UBC students on a joint field course with University Scholar Program students from the National University of Singapore. Entitled “Eating Our Way Across Southeast Asia,”(link is external) the 20 UBC and NUS students, along with TA Jennifer Lau and fellow UBC Professor emeritus Graham Johnson, literally ate their way through Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Singapore, Malacca, and Kuala Lumpur. The summers of 2009 and 2010 saw students from UBC and from NUS each spending two weeks in Vancouver and Singapore in group research projects comparing the two cities, and of course sampling the other city’s cuisine. Watch a film(link is external) made by the students examining how the two cities have dealt with their historic “Chinatown” districts. In May-June of both 2012 and 2013, Prof. Yu and Wendy Phung took a set of students on an exchange with Hong Kong University, and will repeat the program in summer 2014. Click here(link is external) to get more info and to apply.

A Founding Board Member of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia is external), Prof. Yu continues to serve on the Board of Directors and actively engages his UBC students in community history projects through CCHSBC. His essays are featured in two of the CCHSBC’s books, Tracing Memories, Finding Routes (2006) and Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian and Aboriginal Potluck (2007), as well as in the introduction “1788”(link is external) for CCHSBC’s documentary “Bamboo and Cedar” (link is external)about engagements between Chinese Canadian and First Nations(link is external) historically.

Prof. Yu and Prof. Peter Ward were co-investigators in a SSHRC funded project involving the creation of a digital database of the approximately 96,000 Chinese Canadians who paid the discriminatory Head Tax between 1885-1923. This project involved student research assistants Jason Chan, Mary Chan, Denise Wong, and PhD student Feng Zhang. Put online in 2008, this database enables Chinese Canadians whose ancestors were Head Tax payers to search digitally(link is external) for their records. The fully searchable datable can now be found at Chinese Canadian Stories(link is external).

Watch a CBC news story with Prof. Yu explaining the Chinese Head Tax Digitization Project.

Read more about the Chinese Head Tax Digitization project in a story by Lisa Stedman of the Vancouver Courier from September 29, 2006(link is external) and an essay written by Prof. Yu for Library Archives Canada’s online collection on Chinese Canadian history(link is external). See one of the results of a Geographic Information Systems project undertaken by Edith Tam, Maria Ho, and Jeremy Alexander students of Prof. Sally Hermansen of UBC Geography. Prof. Hermansen’s students mapped the destinations of Chinese Head Tax Payers between 1910 and 1923.

During 2007, Yu was the Co-Chair of the Anniversaries of Change Steering Committee,(link is external) representing a network of community and cultural organizations, educational institutions, and labour organizations coming together to mark a series of important anniversaries in the history of Vancouver and Canada. After a year-long series of events, the Anniversaries of Change partnered with the British Columbia Teachers Federation to obtain a grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia to create teaching resources for B.C. high schools(link is external) (see the intro to the “Pivotal Voices” resource(link is external) from The Critical Thinking Consortium(link is external).

Yu is currently writing a book entitled Pacific Canada, another book entitled How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes, as well as a third book project which examines the history of Cantonese migration in the Pacific world.

In May 2005, Yu was chosen by the History New Network as one of its “Top Young Historians.”(link is external) Read about it here(link is external).

In September 2007, Prof. Yu was featured in the Georgia Straight’s annual “Best of Vancouver” Issue as one of the city’s “Bright Lights”(link is external)

In October 2007, Prof. Yu was honoured as an “Unsung Hero” in a “Spotlight on Leadership”(link is external) event sponsored by the North American Association of Asian Professionals (NAAAP) held at the CBC in Vancouver.

In 2012, Prof. Yu was honoured for his work with a Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal.


Prof. Yu lives in Vancouver with his three children and his wife, Ai Mizuta(link is external).



Citation Book/Journal Cover
H. Yu; I. ebrary. Thinking Orientals: migration, contact, and exoticism in modern America. New York: Oxford Universtiy Press, 2001.Received the Norris and Carol Hundley Prize for Most Distinguished Book of 2001, AHA-PCB.

Articles/Book Chapters

Citation Book/Journal Cover
H. YuThe Rhythms of the Trans-Pacific” and “The Intermittent Rhythms of the Cantonese Pacific, in Connecting Seas and Connecting Ocean Rims: Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans and China Seas Migrations from the 1830sD. Gabaccia and Hoerder, D. Leiden: Brill, 2011.
H. YuNurturing Dialogues between First Nations, Urban Aboriginal, and Immigrant Communities in Vancouver, in Cultivating Canada: Reconciliation through the Lens of Cultural DiversityA. MathurDewar, J., and DeGagne, M. Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2011, pp. 300-308.
H. YuGlobal migrants and the new Pacific CanadaINTERNATIONAL JOURNAL, vol. 64, pp. 1011-1026, 2009.
H. YuREFRACTING PACIFIC CANADA: Seeing Our Uncommon PastBC Studies, p. 5, 2008.
H. YuEthnicity, in American Cultural StudiesB. Burgett and Hendler, G.New York: New York University Press, 2007.
H. YuTowards a Pacific history of the AmericasAMERASIA JOURNAL, vol. 33, p. XI-XIX, 2007.
H. YuThen and Now: Trans-Pacific Ethnic Chinese Migrants in Historical Context, in The World of Transnational Asian AmericansD. YuiTokyo: Center for Pacific and American Studies, University of Tokyo, 2006.
H. YuIs Vancouver the Future or the Past? Asian Migrants and White SupremacyPacific Historical Review, vol. 75, pp. 307-312, 2006.
H. YuLos Angeles and American Studies in a Pacific World of MigrationsAmerican Quarterly, vol. 56, pp. 531-543, 2004.
H. YuTiger Woods Is Not the End of History: Or, Why Sex across the Color Line Won’t Save Us AllThe American Historical Review, vol. 108, pp. 1406-1414, 2003.
H. YuTiger Woods at the Center of History: Looking Back at the Twentieth Century through the Lenses of Race, Sports, and Mass Consumption, in Sports Matters: Race, Recreation, and CultureJ. Bloomand Willard, M. Nevin New York: New York University Press, 2002.
H. YuWriting the past in the presentAMERASIA JOURNAL, vol. 28, p. XLI-LII, 2002.
H. YuAsian Americans and Ethnicity and Race, in Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual HistoryM. Kupiec Cayton and Williams, P. W. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 2001.
H. YuAsian Americans and Ethnicity and Race, in Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual HistoryM. Kupiec Cayton and Williams, P. W. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 2001.
H. YuAsian Americans, in The Oxford Companion to United States HistoryP. Boyer New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
H. YuHow Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes: Post-National American Studies as a History of Race, Migration and the Commodification of Culture, in Post-National American StudiesJ. C. Rowe Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000.
H. YuOn a stage built by others: Creating an intellectual history of Asian AmericansAMERASIA JOURNAL, vol. 26, pp. 141-161, 2000.
H. YuMixing Bodies and Cultures: The Meaning of America’s Fascination With Sex Between ‘Orientals’ and Whites, in Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American HistoryM. Hodes New York: New York University Press, 1998.
H. YuThe ‘Oriental Problem’ in America: Linking the Identities of Chinese and Japanese American Intellectuals, in Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities During the Exclusion EraS. K. Wong Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.
H. YuConstructing the ‘Oriental Problem’ In American Thought, 1920-1960, in Multicultural Education, Transformative Knowledge and Action: Historical and Contemporary PerspectivesJ. A. Banks New York: Teachers College Press, 1996.
H. YuOrientalizing the Pacific Rim: The Production of Exotic Knowledge By American Missionaries and Sociologists in the 1920’sJournal of American-East Asian Relations, vol. 5, 1996.
No teaching information.