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Erin E. Stiles

Erin E. Stiles

Associate Professor

Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis

Ansari Business, Room 501
(775) 682-7686



Specializations and Areas of Interest

Anthropology of Religion; Anthropology of Law; Islamic Studies; Islamic Law and Courts; Religion and Gender; Marriage and Divorce; Religious Practice; Swahili; East Africa (Zanzibar, Tanzania, Ethiopia); Indian Ocean; Mormonism and religions in the western United States


My research focuses on the intersections of religion, law, and gender, and I do fieldwork in East Africa and in Utah. Since 1999, I have done ethnographic research on Islamic courts in Zanzibar, Tanzania. My work in Zanzibar has focused primarily on the way lay people and legal professionals understand, interpret, and use Islamic legal ideas in marital disputes. I work both in and out of courts, and I am particularly interested in how Islamic judges, called kadhis, and litigants reason using not only their understandings of Islamic law but also their views of real and ideal marital behavior, patterns of local authority, and the role of Islamic courts in present-day Zanzibar.  I am also interested in comparative approaches to studying Islamic law and legal practice in sub-Saharan Africa.  Presently, I am conducting research in northern Utah on the way in which both LDS and non-LDS women think about marriage vis-a-vis ideas and practices associated with Mormonism. In the future, I plan to return to working in East Africa with a project on Islamic law and marital disputing among Muslims in Ethiopia. I am currently advising graduate students working on health citizenship in South Africa (recently completed), Sufism and Muslim youth in Senegal, health and belonging at a syringe services program in Reno, and Shinto practice in the Pacific Northwest.


  • ANTH 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH 201 Peoples and Cultures of the World
  • ANTH 411B/611B Anthropology of Islam and Muslim Cultures
  • ANTH 420/620 Magic, Witchcraft and Religion
  • ANTH 436/636 History of Anthropology
  • ANTH 439/629 Anthropology of Law
  • ANTH 703 Graduate Core Course in Cultural Anthropology

Selected Publications

  • 2015 J. Brodd, L. Little, B. Nystrom, B. Platzner, R. Shek, E. Stiles, Invitation to World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2nd edition.
  • 2015 Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast. Co-edited with Katrina Daly Thompson. Ohio University Press.  
  • 2015 "An Unsuitable Husband: Allegations of Impotence in Zanzibar," in Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean.
  • 2015 "Imagining a Mormon Culture: Gender, Marriage, and Religion in Cache Valley, Utah" Proceedings of the Southwestern Anthropological Association, Volume 8 (1): 10-15.
  • 2014. "The Right to Marry: Daughters and Elders in the Islamic Courts of Zanzibar." Islamic Law and Society, 21 (3): 252-275.
  • 2013. "The Laws of Marriage: Sexuality, Impotence, and Divorce Suits in Zanzibar's Islamic Courts" Journal of Women Living Under Muslim Laws: Sexualities, Culture, and Society in Muslim Contexts, Dossier 32-33: 59-78.
  • 2013. "Islamic Law in East Africa." In Jonathan A. C. Brown, ed., Oxford Islamic Studies Online (2013) and in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law  (2014). Oxford University Press.
  • 2012 "Contemporary Expressions of Social Justice in Islam" In The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice, editors Michael D. Palmer and Stanley M. Burgess. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.
  • 2011 "Women and Sharia" Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World edited by Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference.
  • 2010, Editor, Proceedings of the Southwestern Anthropological Association, Volume 4.
  • 2009 An Islamic Court in Context: An Ethnographic Study of Judicial Reasoning. New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • 2006 "Broken Edda and Marital Mistakes: Two Recent Disputes from an Islamic Court in Zanzibar." In Dispensing Justice in Islam: Qadis and their Judgments, editors Muhammad Khalid Masud, Rudolph Peters and David S. Powers. Leiden: Brill: 95-116.
  • 2005 "'There is No Stranger to Marriage Here!' Muslim Women and Divorce in Rural Zanzibar." Africa: Journal of the International Africa Institute 75 (4): 582-598.
  • 2004 "Women, Gender and the Articulation of Islamic/non-Islamic Legal Spheres: Sub-Saharan Africa." Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures, ed. Suad Joseph. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • 2004 "Women, Gender, and Customary Law: Sub-Saharan Africa." Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic Cultures, ed. Suad Joseph.Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • 2003 "When is a Divorce a Divorce? Determining Intention in Zanzibar's Islamic Courts." Ethnology: An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology 42 (4): 273-288.
  • 2002 "Buying a Divorce in Zanzibar." ISIM Review: the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World 10 (2)


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