Unessays – a practical guide

Carly Schuster

The emergence of chatbots has sparked renewed debates about “the death” of essay-based assessments. And yet existing pedagogical tools such as “unessays” – which have been at the forefront of reimagining student writing and critical thinking – have not been central to those discussions. How might we use project-based “unessay” assessments in our classrooms to enhance student-led independent inquiry? This talk will introduce the “unessay” approach and explore how to scaffold independent project design that incorporates theory, methods, and applied work. We might even consider how “AI” tools might usefully support such projects!

Presentation Slides

Speaker bio

Carly’s 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 her second major research project following a decade of engagement with the microfinance industry. Her 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. Carly’s 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.