A Moral Hazard? Risk, Religion, and Modern Finance in the Indian Ocean World


ACLS Fellowship Program




Across the 19th century, industrial capitalism rewrote the rules for “risk.” As new financial instruments emerged to manage inevitable uncertainty, chance became something that could be quantified, commodified, bought, and sold. My research follows this transformation not in the Euro-American centers of global commerce but as it unfolded (and was resisted) across South Asia and around the Indian Ocean littoral. Drawing from judicial decisions, legal treatises, administrative debates, and other writings, I show that changing definitions of risk transformed social and economic relationships, facilitated financial inclusion (and exclusion), and contributed to the making of long-term inequalities.