Bio Sketch

Helen F. Siu, is a professor of anthropology and former chair of the Council on East Asian Studies. Her teaching interests are political and historical anthropology, urban and global culture change. She earned a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology from Carleton College, an MA in East Asian Studies, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University.  After teaching at Williams College as a Culpeper Postdoctoral fellow, she joined the faculty at Yale in 1982.

She has conducted decades of fieldwork in Southern China, exploring agrarian change and commerce, the nature of the socialist state, and the refashioning of identities. Lately, she explores rural-urban interface in China, inter-Asian connections, China-Africa encounters, popular music and new political space in Hong Kong.

She has served funding and research assessment committees in the United States, Europe, and Asia. She served on the University Grants Committee (1992-2001) and the Research Grant’s Council (1996-2001) in Hong Kong, for which she received the Bronze Bauhinia Star.  In the U.S. she has served on the Committee for Advanced Study in China and the National Screening Committee for Fulbright awards in the U.S.  She is the founding director of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong (, which highlights cross-disciplinary researc hand global collaborations. She served as honorary director until 2011.  She remains chair of the Institute’s executive committee.

Her recent publications are Asia Inside Out (3 volumes, Harvard U Press 2015, 2019); Tracing China: A Forty year Ethnographic Journey (HKU Press 2016), “China-Africa Encounters: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Realities” Annual Review of Anthropology 46 (Nov 2017), and “Financing China’s Engagements in Africa: New State Spaces along a Variegated Landscape” Africa 89(4) (2019).