Saturday, June 8
Session Abstracts and Descriptions


The “Amish Studies” Citation Network: A Map of What We’re Doing, Where We’re Going, and Who Cites Whom

Cory Anderson

Social networks methods have been used to describe a variety of social structures, from interpersonal networks to organizational relationships, even to international exchanges between countries. Citation network analysis is a fairly recent use of network methods, measuring and assessing the structure of scholarship in a given field. In this study, I pulled together over 550 scholarly references in the field of “Amish Studies” (limiting the analysis to those within the social sciences and in English). Using social network methods, I highlighted points of emphasis within the field as well as identify central works in the literature. In discussion, I offer reflections on the historical development of the present day citation map and provide orientation for future directions of the field.

Cory Anderson is an Ohio State University Presidential Fellow and doctoral candidate and the author of The Amish-Mennonites of North America: A Portrait of Our People (Ridgeway, 2013).

Identification of Amish Resources in the Library of Congress and in Other Libraries

Paul Connor

This session provides guides and resources for conducting research in the Library of Congress buildings—Madison, Jefferson, Adams—and detailed information on the nine reading rooms containing Amish materials. In addition, the presentation will discuss the LOC subscription databases and other databases that can be searched for Amish-related data free via the Internet. Services available for a fee and the libraries in the U.S. that have Amish collections will also be discussed.

Paul Connor is a reference librarian in the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room at the Library of Congress.

Makers and Markers of Distinction: Using Technology to Differentiate Plain Groups in the 1935-1936 Study of Consumer Expenditures

Steven D. Reschly

Plain groups differentiate themselves from the world, and from one another, with technology. Machinery, equipment, and apparatuses that are forbidden, restricted, or allowed serve as markers of distinction. Did technology serve a similar function in the mid-1930s, during the depths of the Great Depression? The massive Study of Consumer Purchases, 1935-1936, offers uniquely detailed information about household and farm technologies among Plain groups of Lancaster County, Pa. The forms have no questions about name, religious affiliation, or ethnicity, but they do specify township. Many have handwritten marginal notations identifying the family as Amish or Mennonite, often to explain the blank “recreation expenses” section. The forms labeled “Amish” share remarkably consistent characteristics.

Can forms without an “Amish” notation be considered Amish for study purposes if they share these technology characteristics, and if they are from appropriate townships? Similar questions can be raised for schedules with a “Mennonite” notation. There is some ambiguity in the presence or absence of specific technologies, and this paper explores those ambiguities. How reliable is technology as a technique to distinguish among various Plain groups? The question is critical for the reliability of statistical studies of these remarkable New Deal consumer surveys.

Steven D. Reschly is a professor of history at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri.


Strengthening Community Bonds through Consumer Culture

Nao Nomura

In this presentation, I examine local benefit sales and home parties to explore how consumer culture reflects the Amish emphasis on community. I argue that activities centered on consumption—benefit auctions and home parties—reinforce the close-knit relationship of the Amish by providing participants with opportunities to visit with friends and family and meet new people. In turn, this social aspect legitimatizes their consumption activities.

The Old Order Amish are often involved in local benefit auctions/sales as organizers, volunteers, and consumers. Amish adults, youth, and even children gather to enjoy working and visiting with Amish and non-Amish friends and families at annual sales to support local fire companies as well as other fundraising events. They make significant contributions not only as an industrious workforce, but also as loyal consumers at these all-day social events. In addition to benefit auctions, direct sales home parties also serve as social events, particularly for Amish women. Popular brands for direct sales include Pampered Chef, Princess House, and Tupperware, each of which has trickled into Amish everyday life. Based on my extensive ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Lancaster Amish settlement, I will demonstrate that Old Order Amish people’s active participation in consumer culture can be understood as complimentary to their emphasis on community.

Nao Nomura is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Area Studies, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo. She is also an adjunct instructor at Saitama University and Tama University.

Hairpins for Hannah: Purchasing Practices of Amish Women in Lancaster County

Judith S. Stavisky

This presentation focuses on Amish women and their purchasing practices related to household goods and supplies. Data were gathered over the course of several months in 2012-2013 by conducting daylong visits with Amish women residing in Lancaster County, to observe and discuss their purchasing habits. Fifteen women spent several hours each with the author, shopping for groceries, housewares, fabric, and supplies. The author provided automobile transportation in exchange for a day of inquiry and observation during a five- to six-hour shopping trip with Amish women. Shopping excursions were made to an array of Amish-owned and -operated grocery stores, fabric shops, toy and book stores, as well as hardware and shoe stores. In addition, some of the shopping trips also included large national retail chain stores. The results identify and describe food and household products traditionally made in the home and those items purchased outside the home. A close-up view of how and where Amish women shop are analyzed along with insights into how decisions related to purchases are made in a sample of northern Lancaster County Amish households.

Judith S. Stavisky is a senior consultant to philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she served as the national executive director of a pioneering mentoring program for children growing up in distressed communities. She is a former senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, overseeing a portfolio of research and programming for vulnerable families.

Amish Online: A Survey of Amish-Themed Websites

Erik Wesner

The robust growth of the Amish across North America has been mirrored by an equally, if not more rapid, spread of the Amish presence online. Amish-themed websites span a range of categories from the purely informational to the highly commercial. This survey examines the more common types of Amish-themed sites, including e-commerce sites, tourism sites, blogs, and forums. The purpose of each variety of site is analyzed, with special attention given to their goals, which are frequently economic. The methods by which web searchers find Amish-themed sites are investigated (including via organic search, paid advertisements, and social portals such as Facebook), while a sample analysis using tools such as Google Keywords and Alexa gives an indication of the numbers of visitors trafficking virtual Amish destinations, or searching for specific Amish-related terms. As representations of the Amish proliferate online in tandem with their physical increase, the opportunities for Internet users to buy, discuss, and learn about Amish culture and products will only continue to grow. This development will increase opportunities for both Amish and non-Amish to capitalize, in a variety of ways, on the Amish interest online.

Erik Wesner is the founder of the blog and the author of Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive (Jossey-Bass, 2010). 


The Emergence of Amish Mennonite Identity in 20th-Century Lancaster County

Javan U. Lapp

The history of Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church, a Beachy Amish congregation in Lancaster County, Pa., demonstrates a unique example of a church that has maintained the ethos of Old Order Amish tradition and cultural resistance to modernism while adopting a more moderate position regarding modern technology and embracing a more evangelical spirituality. This paper traces the emergence of this unique Amish Mennonite identity from the congregation’s origins in an inter-Amish dispute over the role and shape of Ordnung in the early 20th century to mid-century encounters with a more revivalist spirituality and Amish Country tourism that have influenced the worship rituals, lifestyle practices, doctrinal teachings, and self-understandings of Amish Mennonites in Lancaster County.

Javan U. Lapp is an independent scholar interested in the history of Lancaster County Anabaptist groups.

A Peculiar People Revisited: The Iowa Amish in the 21st Century

Elizabeth C. Cooksey and Joseph F. Donnermeyer

In 1975, Dorothy and Elmer Schwieder published a book titled A Peculiar People, Iowa’s Old Order Amish, where the term “peculiar” was used in the biblical sense to mean “particular” or “special,” rather than the more common understanding of “strange” or “eccentric.” Over the intervening decades, the Amish have had to respond to a number of social and economic changes in the world around them, which both pose a threat to their relative isolation and have the potential to impact the ways in which they live their everyday lives. Using data on marriage, fertility, household occupations, and growth of new settlements from Iowa Amish directories, along with community-level information gleaned from newspapers such as the Budget, the Ambassador and the Diary, we revisit the Iowa Amish in the 21st century. Focusing on demographic patterns of marriage, fertility, and migration, plus occupational selection, we describe various ways in which the Amish have both resisted and adapted to the forces of change that surround their communities.

Elizabeth C. Cooksey is a sociology professor at The Ohio State University who has conducted many studies of Amish population patterns. Joseph F. Donnermeyer is a professor of rural sociology and environmental social sciences at The Ohio State University and the author of numerous publications on Amish demographics and related topics.

The Tech-Savvy Northern Indiana Amish and Their Everyday Work-Arounds

Lindsay Ems

Recent visits with northern Indiana Amish business owners reveal a tendency for workers to create complex technological work-arounds that allow them to abide by religious values while remaining competitive in the marketplace. Because of the polarizing tensions of maintaining economic stability as well as traditional family, community, and religious values, the Amish entrepreneurs and workers I encountered indicated that technology use must be possible but should also be complicated in today’s world. By examining particular technological work-arounds, this paper sheds light on the complex negotiation of values, ethics, and practical necessity that arise in everyday uses of technology among northern Indiana Amish.

Lindsay Ems is a PhD candidate in mass communication at Indiana University—Bloomington.


Amish Approaches to Mental Health Care

Steven Nolt

This seminar introduces specific issues and challenges related to Amish access to mental health services, followed by a overview of various efforts to address mental health concerns during the past quarter century. Such efforts have included Amish-initiated programs, professionally-staffed programs, and hybrid models of care. Seminar participants will be invited to discuss and evaluate these efforts from their own backgrounds, or share experience providing human services to Amish clients in related settings.

Steven Nolt is professor of history at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, and book review editor for the journal Mennonite Quarterly Review. He is coauthor of The Amish (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) as well as other books and articles on Amish history and contemporary life, including The Amish Way: Patient Faith in a Perilous World (Jossey-Bass, 2010), Plain Diversity: Amish Cultures and Identities (Johns Hopkins, 2007), and A History of the Amish (Good Books, rev. ed. 2003).


Mir schwetze noch Deitsch : The Amish and the Pennsylvania Dutch Language in the 21st Century

One of the most distinctive aspects of Amish identity is their active maintenance of the Pennsylvania Dutch language. Although historically the Anabaptist and Pietist sectarians comprised only a small fraction of the Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking population, today Amish and horse-and-buggy Mennonites are the sole groups to maintain the language and transmit it to their children. This seminar will explore the use of Pennsylvania Dutch among the Amish against a historical backdrop, identifying patterns of both preservation and change in the language and its use. Participants will also examine the role of standard German in the Old Order verbal repertoire.

Mark L. Louden is professor of German at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and codirector of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies there. His main research and teaching interests include Germanic linguistics and German-American studies. A fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch, Louden is the author of the forthcoming book Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language.


The panel will explore the process of technological change in the Lancaster Amish community. Panelists will explore questions such as these: What are the social and religious values that guide the acceptance, rejection, and/or adaptation of technology? Who holds the authority for making decisions? What is the process for decision-making? What role do early adopters play in the process? How are members disciplined when they step over established boundaries? (Presenters: Donald Kraybill, Brad Igou, and members of the Amish community.)


This panel will feature presentations using multidisciplinary approaches to identify and deliver health and social services to the Old Order communities in Kentucky and southeastern Ontario, Canada. Presentations will focus on health education, safety, cancer prevention screening, and services for children.

Creating and Sustaining a Health Promotion Project

 This presentation will describe the process of creating and sustaining a health promotion project in an Old Order Mennonite community in south central Kentucky. The ongoing 10-year project is conducted one day each month and uses a participatory model with community members selecting the focus of the monthly discussions. The one-hour educational sessions, taught by nursing students or medical residents, are followed by a primary care clinic staffed by the family medicine residents and their preceptor. During the clinic, nursing students offer health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. Members of the Mennonite community have benefited as their self-defined health needs were addressed. The nursing students, medical residents, and faculty benefited as they applied principles of health promotion, program planning, and teaching and learning within the context of the culture of a specific rural population. (Presenters: M. Susan Jones, M. Eve Main, Dawn Garrett-Wright.)

Safety, Cancer Prevention, and Services for Children in Old Order Communities in Ontario

Service providers in southeastern Ontario including public health units, Ministry of Transportation, police, community workers, and family and children’s services collaborate with the leaders of the Amish and Mennonite communities to help make safety modifications that are respectful and healthy. The educational tools that have been developed and funded include buggy safety booklets and children’s coloring books for Old Order schools. A health care outreach program focuses on a cancer prevention screening event for Old Order Amish/Mennonite communities. The partners for this event include Old Order church and lay leaders, Perth District Health Unit, Cancer Care Society, Cancer Care Ontario, North Perth Family Health Team, and the University of Toronto. Another program provides special services for children of Amish and Old Order Mennonite families in Perth County. Services are designed around perceived, self-identified needs of the families. Sometimes that involves advocacy for services, or toy lending or an organized playgroup so that a child with special needs has an opportunity to learn to socialize and gain skills. In addition, two networking days (one for Low German and one for Old Order Mennonite and Amish) have been organized to help build capacity for service providers working with Old Order communities. (Presenters: Heidi Wagner, rural community health worker; Jane Leach, public health nurse; Sandy McKay, on-site resource teacher/consultant.)


Amishploitation: The Media's Pass on Plain Prejudice

David George

Treatment of the Amish and other Plain groups in the media often takes forms that would be widely condemned as offensive or hateful if the subjects were from any other cultural group—certainly any other long-established American religious minority.

Respected news outlets, when reporting on the Amish, regularly adopt a snickering or belittling tone, even when the topic is serious crime if perpetrator or victim happens to be Amish. And in a trend which shows no sign of slowing, popular "reality” TV programs turn religion and culture into freak show, indelicately intruding into the most intimate and sensitive matters of individuals' and communities’ lives, as TLC’s Breaking Amish does with a young person’s decision to continue in the faith tradition of their family. The Discovery Channel’s popular hit program Amish Mafia not only commits ethnic and religious slander of the type rarely abided in 21st-century America in its portrayals of Amish and Mennonites, but it exploits real-life murders and hate crimes for entertainment.

Drawing on his experience at one of the world’s leading news and media companies and his writing on currently popular television programs, David George examines the media’s treatment of Amish and other Anabaptist groups and asks why offensive and exploitative treatment of Plain groups continues to be an accepted source of profit.

David George has worked in marketing roles in the U.S. and Britain. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Mennonite University and an MBA from Yale. He has written on “Amishploitation” TV in Salon, Lancaster Sunday News, and Mennonite World Review, and is currently writing a book about media portrayals of the Amish.

Do the Amish Control Their Narrative in the Non-Amish World?

Elam Zook and Stephen Zook

Throughout their history, the Amish have been subject to narratives about their faith and culture. This discussion will present two opposing viewpoints on the question, Do the Amish control their narrative in the non-Amish world? In responding to this question, historical and current trends in the Amish narrative will be explored. Using David Weaver-Zercher's work and the forgiveness narrative surrounding Nickel Mines, the negative viewpoint will examine how outsiders create and influence Amish identity. To support the counter-viewpoint, the social media reaction to recent Amish reality TV shows will be examined as a pathway for the Amish and their allies to create and strengthen their own narratives in the wider world.

Elam Zook is a freelance writer who respects his Amish heritage and is currently cowriting a book that focuses on the dangers for the Amish when they cede control of their narrative to outsiders. Stephen Zook is a business and freelance writer living in Philadelphia. Born in Lancaster, Pa., Stephen was raised in the conservative Amish culture. He followed his older sister into public high school and then attended Temple University, graduating in 2010.

A Comparative Analysis of Tourism: Old Believers in Estonia and Old Order Amish in America

Aleksandr Aidarov

Old Belief is a religion of Estonian Old Believers (EOB), a small ethnoreligious minority living in a highly socially, economically, and demographically disadvantaged rural area of Estonia The government supports EOB financially so that they can preserve their religion and resist acculturation. However, according to the tourism policy, EOB as an unique tangible and intangible heritage is the main tourism resource in the region.

This presentation compares the EOB with the Amish. Both are objects of tourism. Amish communities seem to resist acculturation quite successfully due to their socioeconomic, cultural development, etc. EOB are small, poor, aging communities (mainly women) with interrupted traditions. They assimilate into the secular culture and/or Russian Orthodox Christianity. So, the main question is this: does tourism harm the EOB or help to preserve it? Likewise with the Amish of America: what are the long-term consequences of tourism? This case study provides an interesting comparative analysis of the impact of tourism on two minority religious groups in different cultural and national settings.

Aleksandr Aidarov is a lecturer and PhD student in Ragnar Nurkse School of Governance and Innovation, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia. He studies cultural policy for national minorities in Estonia and has published academic articles on the subject.


Amish Masculinity: An Exploration of the Implications of Raewyn Connell’s Theory

Robert Strikwerda

This presentation, which relies primarily on secondary literature, applies Raewyn Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity and its relationship to complicit, protest, and subordinate masculinities to Amish masculinity. Gender relations among the Amish combine strongly differentiated practices of masculinity and femininity and male social leadership with an ideology of Gelassenheit or “yieldedness” that promotes non-violence and pacifism and militates against status based on achievement. In the paper, I focus on relations between men and women, particularly the recent movement from what Kraybill describes as “a preindustrial culture where husband and wife work closely together in common rural tasks that predate the role of ‘housewife’” to one of many males working off the farm and substantial female involvement in small businesses.

Analyses relying on Connell typically focus on customs within a community, for example, forms of gay masculinities in relation to other masculinities, such as the typically hegemonic white upper class. But adult Amish men maintain an apparent internal equality of status, with inequality limited by the Ordnung, with the respect for older religious leaders being the exception. Thus Amish masculinity is better seen, I believe, primarily in relation to “English” or more standard American forms. Viewing Amish masculinity from the perspective of Connell’s theory promises to illuminate this theory and our understanding of Amish gender relations.

Robert Strikwerda is associate professor of political science and women’s studies and director of the Global and Local Social Justice Program at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Mother Must [Not] Have Every Labor-Saving Convenience: Amish Women’s Rejection of Modern Household Technology

Katherine Jellison

This paper centers on Amish women’s rejection of modern household technology in favor of labor-intensive traditional farm housekeeping that stressed production over consumption. It relies on federal data from the 1930s and 1940s—including survey results, correspondence, published reports, and photographs from the government’s Study of Consumer Purchases (SCP), Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAE), and Farm Security Administration (FSA)—to demonstrate that women’s work was vital to making the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pa., the most stable agricultural community in interwar America.

Concerned about the welfare of small farm families who could not invest in electrical equipment or gasoline-powered tractors during the Great Depression, agencies such as the BAE and FSA publicized the labor-intensive farming methods and home-production efforts of Lancaster County Amish families. Women’s fruit and vegetable canning, dairy and poultry production, garment construction, bread baking, and reproduction of the labor force kept cash investments low and contributed significantly to the Amish farm family’s economic stability. Valorization of Amish women’s low-tech, labor-intensive way of life during this period insured that the public would remain interested in their activities in subsequent decades, helping create an alternative to capital-intensive agriculture that counterculturalists, sustainability advocates, and others would later embrace.

Katherine Jellison is a professor of history at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and the author of numerous publications on rural women.

“Starting a Business is Hard Work”: Amish Women and Start-Up Entrepreneurship in Lancaster, Pa.

Beth E. Graybill

As the community grows, an increasing number of Amish women in Lancaster County, PA, are developing cottage industries—from pretzel stands to greenhouses to soap manufacture. Another profitable venture for some Amish mothers is cooking meals for tourist groups in their homes. These Amish women’s start-up businesses in Lancaster today are small-scale ventures that require a modest initial outlay of capital but that have the potential to grow. My paper compares Lancaster County Amish women’s business to statistics from the National Association of Women Business Owners, which show a 44% increase in U.S. businesses owned by women in the last decade, and to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration, citing the fact that women-owned firms now make up close to a third of all nonfarm businesses across the country. My paper draws on a small sample of in-depth, ethnographic interviews with Lancaster Amish businesswomen to examine the challenges, expectations, and rewards of small business start-ups for Amish women entrepreneurs.

Beth E. Graybill is director of the Alice Drum Women’s Center and adjunct assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa.


Genetic Medicine in the Plain Populations and Beyond

This seminar describes the work of the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pa. Under the leadership of its founders, Holmes and Caroline Morton, the clinic now manages over 2,200 patients and treats 130 rare inherited disorders. Recent work has led to the discovery of a specific gene variant for major psychiatric illness within the Amish population. This is the first such discovery of its kind. While rooted in the Plain populations of Pennsylvania, the Clinic offers an important window into the future of genetic medicine.

Kevin A. Strauss is the medical director at the Clinic for Special Children (CSC). He joined CSC in 2001 after training at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital and became medical director in 2009. Dr. Strauss is responsible for all clinical activities and has led many research initiatives, including the recent work on major psychiatric illness. Erik G. Puffenberger is the laboratory director at the Clinic for Special Children.He joined CSC in 1998 after completing his PhD at Case Western Reserve University in Human Genetics. Puffenberger is responsible for all clinical and research testing within the Clinic’s CLIA-certified laboratory and collaborates extensively with Drs. Strauss and Morton on clinical diagnosis and research publications.


Books in a Digital Age: The Evolving World of Scholarly Publishing

How has the world of eReaders such as the Kindle and iPad changed the way publishers disseminate content to readers? Just what are digital shorts? Is digital publishing a fad or is the printed book on the road to extinct? This seminar will provide an overview of the academic publishing process from initial proposal to printed (or, in some cases, non-printed) book.

Greg Nicholl is an assistant acquisitions editor at the Johns Hopkins University Press, where he acquires books in American studies and titles related to the Chesapeake region. He also oversees the Young Center Books series in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. Prior to joining Johns Hopkins, Nicholl worked at Random House and Routledge. His poetry has appeared in national literary journals including Arts & Letters, Ecotone, Feminist Studies, The Los Angeles Review, Mid-American Review, Natural Bridge, and Post Road.


Moderated by Amish scholar Karen Johnson-Weiner, this panel will consider the different interests involved in the writing, publishing, and reading of Amish romance fiction. Panelists will also explore the reasons for the rapid rise of public interest in Amish romance fiction and the roles, perspectives, and concerns of writers, publishers, and readers of these novels. Panelists include Linda Byler, an Amish woman who writes romance fiction; Kate Good, a publisher of romance novels; and Valerie Weaver-Zercher, a literary critic and author who writes about this genre.


The panel will explore the process of technological change in the Wenger (horse-and-buggy) Mennonite communities located in several states. Panelists will explore questions such as these: What are the social and religious values that guide the acceptance, rejection, and/or adaptation of technology? Who holds the authority for making decisions? What is the process for decision-making? What role do early adopters play in the process? How are members disciplined when they step over established boundaries? Panelists include Donald Kraybill, Judson Reid, and members of the Wenger Mennonite community.


Amish Participation in Medical Research: A Partnership of Trust and Mutual Benefit

Based on some 30 major research projects he has directed in Amish communities, Dr. Shuldiner will give an overview of the use of medical research technology and the Amish acceptance of it in scientific investigations. He will summarize what we know about Amish health and the significant contribution the Amish have made to the science of medicine.

Alan Shuldiner is John Whitehurst Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Personalized Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Founder and director of the Amish Research Clinic, Dr. Shuldiner has gathered data on more than 6,000 Amish subjects. He is the author or coauthor of some 250 scientific articles.