Dr Caroline Schuster

PhD, University of Chicago, MA University of Chicago, BA Stanford University
Senior Lecturer, School of Archaeology and Anthropology; Director of the Australian Centre for Latin American Studies ANCLAS
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Research interests

Economic anthropology, value, credit and debt; microcredit, NGOs and development policy; insurance, risk, finance; environment, climate change, weather catastrophes; gender, kinship, feminist theory; Latin America, Paraguay

I completed my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2012, followed by a postdoctoral research appointment at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. 

My current research on insurance and weather catastrophes is based on anthropological fieldwork in Paraguay supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA 2017-2020). It is my second major research project following a decade of engagement with the microfinance industry. My first book, Social Collateral: women and microfinance in Paraguay’s smuggling economy (University of California Press, 2015) is an ethnographic account of freewheeling frontier capitalism in Paraguay’s triple-frontier with Argentina and Brazil. Taken together, these two research projects offer a sustained study of economic interdependency. My research agenda asks: how and under what conditions are people collectively obligated in everyday economic practice? What value systems compel people to knit and ravel these economic interdependencies, and with what effects? Insurance is an obvious outgrowth from my research on microcredit “social collateral” and collective indebtedness, since insurance explicitly aims to pool and spread risk while transferring liability. Building on my prior research, this DECRA project interrogates the consequential differences between modes of sharing risk and promising security in financial systems and otherwise.  


Available student projects

Available to supervise students in economic anthropology, anthropology of finance, gender and sexuality studies, and Latin American studies.

Current student projects

James Debowski (Endeavour Scholar 2016), "Contesting Community Management: Social infrastructures and relational systems in horizontal project and resource management"

Alexander D'Aloia, "Translating Solidarity: Effects of translation on solidarity economics policy in Ecuador"

Owen McNamara, "Managing Soy Cultivation in Cordova Province, Argentina"


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  25 June 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers