Erin Stiles, Ph.D.

Assistant Dean, Curriculum, Assessment, and Student Engagement; Associate Professor of Anthropology
Erin Stiles


Erin Stiles' research focuses on the intersections of religion, law, and gender and she conducts fieldwork in East Africa and in Utah. Stiles has done extensive ethnographic research on Islamic family law and dispute resolution in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Her work in Zanzibar has focused primarily on the way lay people and legal professionals understand, interpret and use Islamic legal ideas in marital disputes. She has done fieldwork both in and out of courts and is 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. Her current projects in Zanzibar and Tanzania focus on Islamic inheritance law, gender, and equity. Stiles is particularly interested in comparative approaches to studying Islamic law and legal practice in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere and will soon begin projects on gender, Islam, and law in Ghana and South Africa. In addition to her work on Islam and law, Stiles has also conducted research in northern Utah on Latter-day Saint (Mormon) conceptions of and experiences with the spirit world. Her graduate students are working on the following topics: healing and modernity among self-described LDS "fundamentalists" in Utah, marriage and law among Irish Travellers in the US Southeast, Islam and migration in Japan, and LGBTQ+ affirming Protestant communities.

Research interests

  • Anthropology of religion
  • Anthropology of law and legal pluralism
  • Islam
  • Islamic law and courts
  • Religion and gender
  • Marriage and divorce
  • Swahili
  • East Africa (Zanzibar, Tanzania)
  • Indian Ocean
  • Morality and ethics
  • Mormonism and religions in the western United States

Courses taught

  • 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 426 Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 436/636 History of Anthropology
  • ANTH 703 Graduate Core Course in Cultural Anthropology

Recent publications

  • In press, The Devil Sat on My Bed: Encounters with the Spirit World in Mormon Utah, Oxford University Press
  • In Press, Governance and Islam in East Africa: Muslims and the State, eds. Farouk Topan, Kai Kresse, Hassan Mwakimako, Erin Stiles; Edinburgh University Press
  • 2022 Islamic Divorce in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective, co-edited with Ayang Utriza Yakin; Rutgers University Press
  • 2023 “They have shown me what I need to know;” spirits, the eternal family, and collective ethical responsibility in Utah Mormonism. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
  • 2022 ‘The Evil Spirits are Always Trying to Bring you Down’: Righteousness and Spirit Harassment among Latter-day Saints in Northern Utah," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 90 (3): 695-712
  • 2020 “Shari‘a Law in Muslim Africa” in Fallou Ngom, Mustapha Kurfi, and Toyin Falola eds., The Palgrave Handbook of Islam in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 205-219
  • 2019 “Khul‘: Local Contours of a Global Phenomenon.” Co-authored with Nadia Sonneveld, in Islamic Law and Society, 26 (1): 1-11

Related links


  • Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
  • M.A. University of Colorado, Boulder
  • A.B. Duke University