Ryan M. Calder

Ryan M. Calder

Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Research Interests: Research Interests: markets and their moral logics, globalization and global capitalism, consumption, finance and financialization, religion (especially Islam) and religious law, loyalty rewards programs (such as airline mileage programs)

Education: PhD, UC Berkeley

I am a sociologist interested in new and fast-changing transnational markets and economic sectors. I investigate how consumption, production, finance, morality, religion, economic logics, corporate organization, and conceptions of the body are evolving in these markets and sectors. While my research focuses mostly on the late 20th and 21st centuries, I situate it in the longue durée of historical capitalism.

I am endlessly curious about how we make capitalism, and how capitalism makes us: into beings moral and immoral, pious and impious, “religious” and “secular,” “rational” and “irrational,” rich and poor, agentic and exploited, nationalist and cosmopolitan, feminine and masculine, sub-human and supra-human.

My first book, The Paradox of Islamic Finance: How Shariah Scholars Reconcile Religion and Capitalism, (forthcoming from Princeton University Press in 2024), draws on over 280 interviews largely in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, and Oman. It explores how Islamic jurists have helped the Islamic-finance industry grow from one small bank in Dubai in 1975 into a multi-trillion-dollar industry today: one that offers products ranging from Islamic savings accounts to complex Islamic derivatives. Tracing the interplay of petrodollars, the global Islamic revival, and financialization, the book argues provocatively that Islamic law can be spectacularly compatible with modern markets when auspicious conditions obtain.

My second book project is tentatively entitled Selling Points: How Frequent-Flyer Miles, Starbucks Rewards, and Other Loyalty Currencies Are Transforming the Global Economy. It delves into the fast-growing world of points-based loyalty rewards programs, including not only programs at airlines and chain coffeehouses but also hotel and rental-car rewards, credit-card points, umbrella points programs like Japan's Rakuten Super Points, casino rewards, and others. While most of us think of loyalty programs as doing little more than offering customers freebies to stay loyal, I argue that they are fundamentally changing the way corporations around the world relate to their customers, exercise power over other corporations, and weather crises.

My third project, which I am carrying out in parallel with the second, explores how "halalization" occurs in the 21st century. In other words, how do new goods, services, and industries come to be governed by detailed rules of religious law? And what happens when they do? I focus especially on emerging halal sectors such as halal cosmetics, halal logistics and supply-chain management, halal vaccines and biotech, modest fashion, shariah hospitals, and shariah housing developments. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic research in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States, this project again explores the fast-changing frontier of religion and capitalism.

ACADEMIC INTERESTS: Social theory, economic sociology, sociology of religion, political economy, comparative-historical sociology, world-systems theory, cultural sociology, globalization

  • 230.101 Introduction to Sociology
  • 230.147 Introduction to Islam since 1800
  • 230.367 Islamic Finance
  • 230.381 Sociology of the Middle East and North Africa
  • 230.445 Sociology of Religion
  • 230.609 Dissertation Seminar
  • 230.635 PGSC Research Seminar
  • 230.649 Qualitative Research Methods: Domestic and International Fieldwork

2020. "Halalization: Religious product certification in secular markets." Sociological Theory 38(4):334–361.
- Winner, 2021 ASA Consumers and Consumption Section Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award
- Honorable Mention, 2021 ASA Economic Sociology Section Granovetter Award for Best Paper

2020. “Sharīʿah-compliant or sharīʿah-based? The changing ethical discourse of Islamic finance.” Arab Law Quarterly 34: 1–24.

2019. How religio-economic projects succeed and fail: the field dynamics of Islamic finance in the Arab Gulf states and Pakistan, 1975–2018.” Socio-Economic Review 17(1): 167–193.

2018. Shariah with British characteristics (review essay). European Journal of Sociology 59(3): 408–416.

2017. ​"Accounts Dialogue: Interview with Ryan Calder” (Kasey Zapatka, interviewer). Accounts 16(2):3–8.

2016. ​"God’s technicians: Religious jurists and the usury ban in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." European Journal of Sociology 57(2): 207-257.

2015. Architecture of Markets. In Robert A. Scott and Stephen M. Kosslyn (eds.), Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage. With Neil Fligstein.

2010. Efforts to replicate short-selling in Islamic finance: Malaysian innovation in comparative perspective. In Angelo Venardos (ed.), Current Issues in Islamic Banking and Finance: Resilience and Stability in the Present System. London: Worldwide Scientific.

2007. Political Sociology.” In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, edited by George Ritzer. Oxford: Blackwell. With John Lie.

Islamic finance in a fintech future.” Ear to Asia podcast, University of Melbourne. With Hassan Jivraj and interviewer Ali Moore. April 21, 2022.

Libya’s cautious optimism.” Contexts. Spring 2013.

An Islamist, a liberal, and a former regime loyalist walk into a cafe…Foreign Policy. October 21, 2011.

Remembering Anton Hammerl and his work in Libya.The Atlantic. May 20, 2011.

The improvised state: Who’s actually running things in free Libya?Foreign Policy. April 20, 2011.

Life lessons: How are children in Benghazi coping with war?Foreign Policy. April 15, 2011.

The sounds of the revolution.Foreign Policy. April 11, 2011.

Can Libya’s rebels go pro?Foreign Policy. April 8, 2011.

Benghazi diary: Three weeks in the revolutionary heartland of eastern Libya.Foreign Policy. April 7, 2011.

Why Libya’s rebels are stalled.The Atlantic. April 7, 2011.

The accordion war: Libya’s ever-moving front.The Atlantic. April 5, 2011.