Anthropologist + Writer



As an anthropologist, I explore the beliefs, behaviors, stories and journeys that complicate, challenge and define us. My work spans consumer research, global ethnography, narrative non-fiction writing and social entrepreneurship.


my work

Consumer Insights

I bring two decades of experience in UX strategy + design research 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, Descente, Netflix, Nickelodeon, Motorola, eBay, Coursera, Kohler, and the CDC.

My qualitative research skill set includes:
* Ethnography
* Digital Ethnography
* Participatory design
* Focus Groups
* One on one in-depth interviews
* Usability Testing


my work

Global Ethnography

I’ve conducted extensive research throughout the world. My PhD work took place among ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs in Vietnam. For my clients, I travel regularly to East Asia, Western Europe, and Latin America.

I am also a specialist when it comes to consumer culture in China. I first lived in Beijing in 1990 as an exchange student . That was an incredible time to be there, just a year after the Tiananmen protests and government crackdown. Since then, I’ve witnessed the world writing off China to China’s ascendance as an economic power, to the West’s fear of China’s dominance in AI technologies and global influence.

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

Writer of True Stories

My published writing focuses on Asia Pacific + West Coast consumer culture, tech and climate.

I am a regular contributor to Hawaii Business Magazine, which has been named best business magazine in the country. Other bylines in National Geographic, Travelocity and AFAR.

My writing has won numerous awards, including first place in The Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Awards category of long form feature writing (2019), and silver in the Alliance of Area Business Publishers’ category of best local reporting of a national story (2019).

Please visit my other little corners of the online world to see and hear more: for my published articles for my travel stories


my work

Studio Resilience

I co-founded Studio Resilience because I believe that only when people experience something with their own senses and start telling stories about it to others, can a movement gain momentum.

Studio Resilience creates simple tools for telling our climate crisis stories, visually and virally.

Look for Sea Level Check, our first app, available for free in the Apple App Store.



“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.

I long ago abandoned the idea of having just one narrow career path, but everything I do is based on my deep interest in uncovering and bringing to life the personal journeys that make us who we are as individuals and as communities.

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.