Emily Wilcox grew up in Brighton, Michigan and was the first person in her immediate family to receive a college degree. As an undergraduate at Harvard University, Dr. Wilcox first visited China in 2002 as a performer in the Harvard ballroom dance team. Dr. Wilcox received her M.Phil. at the University of Cambridge as a John Eliot Scholar at Jesus College in 2004 and earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 2011. As a Ph.D. student, Dr. Wilcox was a Blakemore Freeman Fellow at the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University and a Fulbright Scholar at the Beijing Dance Academy. In 2011-2013, Dr. Wilcox was a postdoctoral fellow of the Shanghai Theatre Academy.

Dr. Wilcox has dedicated her professional career to teaching and research about China, with a focus on dance and performance. Dr. Wilcox taught at the University of Michigan from 2013 to 2020 as assistant professor and then tenured associate professor of modern Chinese studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, where she mentored doctoral students and collaborated with Chinese Studies Librarian Liangyu Fu to create the first large-scale library archive dedicated to Chinese dance outside China. In 2017, Dr. Wilcox and Dr. Fu co-curated the public-facing exhibition Chinese Dance: National Movements in a Revolutionary Age, 1945-1965 and launched the digital photograph archive Pioneers of Chinese Dance. In 2018, Dr. Wilcox published her first book, Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, with University of California Press, which was awarded the de la Torre Bueno Prize from the Dance Studies Association. In 2020, Dr. Wilcox published her second book, the co-edited volume Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia, with the University of Michigan Press. In 2019, Dr. Wilcox received the Class of 1923 Memorial Teaching Award for outstanding teaching of undergraduates at the University of Michigan.

In 2021, Dr. Wilcox left Michigan to join the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures at William & Mary as tenured associate professor of Chinese studies. Dr. Wilcox serves as interim department chair and program director for Chinese studies. She is also a 2021 Wilson China fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Dr. Wilcox retains her connection to the University of Michigan as center associate of the University of Michigan Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and co-editor with Mary Gallagher of the China Understandings Today book series at the University of Michigan Press.

Dr. Wilcox has received major research fellowships from the UC Pacific Rim Research Program, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Science Research Council. She was president of the Association for Asian Performance from 2015-2017 and board member of the Society for Dance History Scholars from 2014-2016. She is currently a member of the board of directors of the Dance Studies Association and serves on editorial boards of dance journals and book series in the UK, China, and South Korea. Actively engaged in Chinese-language arts and academic communities, Dr. Wilcox regularly lectures and publishes in Chinese and produces international events involving artists and scholars from China and the diaspora.