Ryan M. Calder

Ryan M. Calder

Assistant Professor

Curriculum Vitae
Mergenthaler 435
By Appointment

Research Interests: Contemporary Muslim societies, sociology of markets, financialization, Islamic law and jurisprudence, comparative-historical research

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.

I am interested in global markets of all kinds, especially as they relate to moral and religious questions. My book manuscript on Islamic finance is currently under review. Its working title is Billion-Dollar Scholars: The Rise of Islamic Finance and the Shariah Experts Who Make It Work.

My other projects include:

(1) HALALIZATION: This project is a comparative international study of “halalization”: the establishment of new products and sectors compliant with Islamic law, such as halal shipping, halal biotech, halal cosmetics, halal tourism, and halal appliances. Why has halalization boomed in some countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, but faltered in others, such as the Arab Gulf states? What does it mean to consumers as a form of pious consumption and democratic self-representation? How does it appeal to producers as a form of risk minimization? And how has it has emerged from state efforts to construct and manage modern, scientific, certification-based conceptions of Islamic piety?

(2) FREQUENT-FLYER PROGRAMS: Why, since the 1990s, have frequent-flyer programs (FFPs) become profit centers hugely important to the profitability of the world’s largest airlines? FFPs make money mostly by selling miles to credit-card issuers, hotel chains, and rental-car agencies. By some measures, FFPs at the world’s largest airlines generate more profit than the traditional business of flying passengers and cargo. FFPs also function like central banks that can issue, inflate, and deflate their own currencies. They can be spun off from their parent airlines, and have even survived the demise of the parent airlines as profitable “zombie” programs, as in the case of India’s Jet Airways. The growing importance of FFPs sheds light on the financialization and datafication of non-financial corporations, the hunt for new profit opportunities in the context of highly competitive mass air travel, and changes in US corporate law and aviation regulation.

(3) STEROIDS (preliminary): This project is a global investigation of anabolic and androgenic steroids that explores their growth at the intersection of recent phenomena: the global boom in competitive bodybuilding, from Kansas to Karachi, with deadly consequences as average dosages increase in a chemical arms race; the changing character of masculinity and male embodiment in the age of influencers, which has taken steroids beyond competitive bodybuilding and professional athletics into ordinary frat houses and fitness clubs across America; the vulgate endocrinology of online "bro science" forums and videos; the near-total dominance of Chinese chemicals producers in world pharmaceuticals production; challenges to state regulation and customs control of steroids ingredients, including disintermediated “home-brew” steroids production; the pharmaceuticalization of testosterone as anti-aging and life-extension treatment; and ultimately, changes in what it means to be masculine—and human—in an age of “better living through chemistry” when ripped abs, aggressive self-confidence, and even enhanced intelligence are available to anyone with a credit card and an internet connection.

  • 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.