I’m an Anthropologist – an explorer of human cultures.

As an Anthropologist, I study the beliefs, rituals, patterns, and institutions that define and differentiate us as human beings. And I bring these experiences to life for my audiences through multi-media narratives and immersive journeys.

I work across three, interrelated fields.


PhD Anthropologist and cultural specialist in Greater China, southeast Asia, emerging markets, and transnational identities.


UX research and consumer insights specialist, focused on  uncovering unmet needs to drive product and brand strategies.


Magazine feature writer, focused on culture, business+clean energy. Travel writer and podcaster.

my work


As ethnographers like to say, our goal is to “make the strange familiar, and the familiar strange.” I specialize in deep-dive, cross-cultural research, immersing myself in specific communities in order understand patterns of thinking and behavior from insiders’ perspectives. I’ve conducted research around the world, including China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Mexico, Brazil, and across Western Europe and the United States.

I’m the author of two publications about China:

Consumption in China (Polity Press 2014)

“China, the Emerging Consumer Power” in Routledge Handbook on Consumption (Routledge: 2017)

my work

Design Research

I bring 18 years of experience in UX strategy + consumer insights to my work as a freelance consultant. My clients are typically product teams in Fortunate 500 companies looking for unique, culturally embedded, and nuanced understandings to shape their strategies.

I’ve worked extensively in areas including artificial intelligence, mobile tech, social media, health+wellness, education, and entertainment. Consumer audiences I have worked with include bleeding edge tech users, basketball players, teen fashionistas, senior citizens, people living on less than a dollar a day, and Louisiana bayou fishermen.

My clients have included: Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Under Armour, Nickelodeon, Motorola, eBay, Coursera, Kohler, and the CDC.

my work

Narrative Journalism

My work as a creative non-fiction writer and audio/visual storyteller focuses on culture, travel, and political engagement.

I write for magazines, host my own podcast, photograph the world around me, and am the founder of a socio-political writers’ community. Please visit my other little corners of the online world to see and hear more:

immersivejourneys.com:  for my published articles

anthrolicious.com: for my podcasts and blogs exploring the intersection of anthropology, narrative journalism and travel writing

writingtheresistance.com: for my socio-political writing

“Anthropology demands the open-mindedness with which one must look and listen, record in astonishment and wonder that which one would not have been able to guess.” – Margaret Mead

about me

LiAnne Yu, PhD

I always wanted to be an anthropologist. As my third grade teacher once told me, anthropologists get to travel, poke their noses into closets, listen to grannies gossip on the front porch, and call that a good day’s work. Today, I use my anthropology background to help corporate clients as a design researcher, and to inform my non-fiction written narratives and audio stories.

I have  a PhD. in Anthropology from the University of California, San Diego, and a B.A. in Chinese Studies from UC Berkeley.  I very happily split my time between San Francisco, which raised and shaped me, the Big Island of Hawaii, where I can listen to locals talk story to my heart’s content, Germany, where my husband is from, and anywhere else in the world I have the privilege to spend time in.