This project considers the role writing and documentation played in the modernization of Islamic legal practice in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century South Asia. Drawing on previously unexamined materials produced by qazis (Islamic judges) and muftis (jurisconsults)—including notebooks, registers, and files—the project considers the effects of bureaucratization in particular and legal modernization more generally on the everyday procedures and protocols of local legal practice. In so doing it brings together observations on the importance of paperwork in the exercise and extension of British imperial power with a critical understanding of the role print technologies played in the context of Islamic reform. It argues that the development of novel documentary forms in the nineteenth century paved the way for the emergence of a system of legal pluralism rooted in parallel procedures.


ACLS Fellowship Program, 2022


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




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.