Caroline Schuster

Lecturer, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University

I completed my PhD in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2012, where my thesis was awarded the year’s Richard Saller Prize for most distinguished dissertation in the Division of Social Sciences. As a postdoctoral scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies I spent two years in research residence working on my 2015 book, Social Collateral: women and microfinance in Paraguay's smuggling economy. The project is part of a sustained research interest in gender and finance, and in the social life of community-based economic projects in the hyper-liberalized contexts of Latin American borders.

Microcredit is part of a global trend of financial inclusion that brings banking services, especially small loans, to the world’s poor. In this book, I explore Paraguayan solidarity lending as a window into the tensions between social development and global finance.

Social Collateral tracks collective debt across the commercial society and smuggling economies at the Paraguayan border by examining group loans made to women by nonprofit development programs. These highly regulated loans are secured through mutual support and peer pressure—social collateral—rather than through physical collateral. This story of social collateral necessarily includes an interwoven account about the feminization of solidarity lending. At its core is an economy of gender—from pink-collar financial work, to men’s committees, to women smugglers. At stake are interdependencies that bind borrowers and lenders, financial technologies, and Paraguayan development in ways that structure both global inequality and global opportunity.

At the ANU, I lecture on Inequality & Development, Anthropology of Money, and lead a hands-on practicum on "Doing Ethnography."


  • –present
    Lecturer, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University