E. Lhost - PhotoCurrent Research:

I am a historian of modern South Asia with interests in the intersections between law, religion, and society. My current book project—The Office of Islamic Law: Paperwork, Politics, and Possibilities in Modern South Asia (1800–1950)—demonstrates how colonial efforts to compartmentalize Islamic law within the private sphere of religion and family unwittingly catapulted Islamic legal discourse into the public sphere and made engagement with, discussion of, and references to Islamic law a critical component of everyday Muslim life. The book traces the evolution and expansion of what I call “everyday Islamic law” and uses the mundane routines of paperwork and bureaucracy to understand how ordinary Muslims engaged with and understood “the law”.

IMG_5636This research draws upon a number of unpublished sources—files, notebooks, and registers—produced and preserved by these local practitioners to demonstrate the ways in which written documents shaped ordinary individuals’ engagement with the colonial legal system. I discuss and describe some of these sources here.

My next project, tentatively titled “A Moral Hazard?: Risk, Religion, and Modern Finance in the Indian Ocean World”, will extend my interests in law and religion to the histories of capitalism and finance by examining moral and ethical responses from religious reform groups, civic associations, and community groups to the introduction of novel financial instruments including pensions, life insurance, lotteries, and credit cooperative societies. This research taps into current debates over debt, financial responsibility, and the inequality of algorithmic models while showcasing multiple visions for ethical financial behavior and drawing attention to alternative interpretations of what constitutes appropriate financial risk. I welcome new opportunities to collaborate as I begin this project.


I completed my PhD in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and History at the University of Chicago and am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows and the Department of History at Dartmouth College. Before joining Dartmouth, I held an A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where I was affiliated with the Center for the Humanities, the Center for South Asia, and the Undergraduate Legal Studies Program.

Before earning my PhD, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science and English Literature at Northwestern University and earned a master’s degree in Languages and Cultures of Asia at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. I also studied Hindi and Urdu with the American Institute of Indian Studies in Jaipur and Lucknow as part of my graduate studies. I currently serve on the Board of Trustees of the American Institute for Pakistan Studies.

You can  learn more about my teaching interests here and about my research interests and other projects, presentations, and collaborations here and here.