Erin E. Stiles

Erin E. Stiles

Associate Professor; Graduate Program Director

Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis

Ansari Business, Room 501
(775) 682-7686

Office Hours Fall 2018: Tuesdays/Thursdays 1:15-2:45 PM

Specializations and Areas of Interest

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


My research focuses on the intersections of religion, law, and gender, and I conduct fieldwork in East Africa and in Utah.   I have done extensive ethnographic research on Islamic family law and dispute resolution 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 have done fieldwork 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 particularly interested in comparative approaches to studying Islamic law and legal practice in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, and my current project, which I am working on with colleagues in the US, the Netherlands, and Pakistan, is a comparative, cross-cultural examination of a form of Islamic divorce known as khul'.  In addition to my work on Islamic family law, I am currently conducting research in northern Utah on Mormon conceptions of and experiences with the spirit world. In 2019, I plan to return to working in East Africa with a project on Islamic inheritance law, gender, and customary land rights in Zanzibar. My graduate students have worked/are working on the following topics: health citizenship in South Africa, Sufism and Muslim youth in Senegal, health and belonging at a syringe services program in Reno, Shinto practice in the Pacific Northwest, notions of purity in American Christianity, and contemporary American witchcraft. I welcome inquiries from potential graduate students. 


  • ANTH 101 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH 201 Peoples and Cultures of the World
  • ANTH 401c/601c Peoples and Cultures of Africa 
  • ANTH 411B/611B Anthropology of Islam and Muslim Cultures 
  • ANTH 419/619 Anthropology of Law
  • ANTH 420/620 Magic, Witchcraft and Religion
  • ANTH 436/636 History of Anthropology
  • ANTH 703 Graduate Core Course in Cultural Anthropology

Selected Publications

  • 2018 J. Brodd, L. Little, B. Nystrom, B. Platzner, R. Shek, E. Stiles, Invitation to World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3rd edition.
  • 2018  "How to Manage a Marital Dispute: Legal Pluralism from the Ground Up" University of California, Irvine Law Review, 8: 101-122.
  • 2016 Nadia Sonneveld and Erin Stiles, "Divorce and Custody: Contemporary Practices: Khul'" EWIC, general ed. Suad Jospeh. Leiden: Brill.
  • 2016 "The Anthropology of Law," in Ethnology, Ethnography, and Cultural Anthropology, eds. Paolo Barbaro, in EOLSS, Developed under the Auspices of UNESCO, EOLSS Publishers, Oxford, UK.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.