Saturday, June 11 
Session Abstracts and Descriptions


An Uneasy Calling: John A. Hostetler and the Work of Cultural Mediation

David Weaver-Zercher

This biographically oriented presentation will focus on John A. Hostetler (1918-2001) as an Amish-born scholar of Amish life, an identity that placed Hostetler in a uniquely privileged—and uniquely complicated—place from which to mediate the Amish to the larger world. During his tenure as the premier scholar of Amish life (1960-1985), Hostetler made the mysteries of the Amish accessible to hundreds of thousands of people—scholars, students, and the general public. During this same period, the renown of the Amish grew rapidly, a growth fueled by Amish-theme tourism and a host of other media vehicles. Popular interest in the Amish abetted Hostetler’s interpretative work, but it also complicated it, as Hostetler found himself in the position of spokesperson for and protector of the Amish, as well as interpreter. For Hostetler, it was an uneasy and sometimes painful calling to embrace.

David Weaver-Zercher is professor of American religious history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pa. His books on Anabaptist history and culture include Martyrs Mirror: A Social History (2016), The Amish and the Media, coedited with Diane Zimmerman Umble (2008), and Writing the Amish: The Worlds of John A. Hostetler (2005).

John A. Hostetler and a Mennonite Interpretation of the Amish

Steven M. Nolt

John A. Hostetlers Amish background is critical for understanding his interpretation of the Amish. So is his adult religious identity as a Mennonite. This presentation will suggest ways in which Hostetter’s Mennonite commitments and education shaped his interpretation of Amish life. In the mid-twentieth century, Mennonite scholars were imagining an ecumenical Mennonitism that spanned continents and transcended sectarian subgroups. This conception functioned as a “big tent” under which the Amish could fit as a particular expression of Mennonitism in the modern world. How did Hostetler position the Amish within such an arrangement, and how did such a model shape his presentation of the Amish?  What may have been lost in such a scheme, and what new questions emerge when the Amish are not assumed to be, simply or primarily, variant Mennonites?

Steven M. Nolt,  professor of history at Goshen (Ind.) College, will begin his new role as the Young Center's senior scholar this summer. His newest book,  The Amish: A Concise Introduction,  was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press in March 2016. Other recent publications include  A History of the Amish , 3rd ed. (2015) and, with Donald Kraybill and Karen Johnson-Weiner,  The Amish  (2013) .


The Amish Economy and the End of the Industrial Age

Martin Lutz

This paper analyses perceptions of the Amish in newspapers at the end of the industrial age. Historiography portrays the “long” 1970s as an era of crises in the United States that lasted from the 1960s to the so-called “Reagan Revolution” in 1980. Economic history focuses in particular on the decline of manufacturing, accelerated globalization, the oil price shock, stagflation, high unemployment and the transition from New Deal policies to neoliberal economics that became dominant in the 1980s. While the recent cultural turn in economic history broadened the field’s methodological approaches and empirical findings, religion has so far been neglected as a research topic. My paper approaches this issue by applying historical discourse analysis to newspaper reporting on the Amish during the “long” 1970s. Empirically, it is based on a selection of major American newspapers. The analysis shows, first, a massive increase in reporting on the Amish. Second, a qualitative analysis of a sample of articles demonstrates the construction of two opposing narratives—general economic decline in the United States on the one hand, and Amish persistence and positive economic development on the other. I argue that the findings challenge conventional historiographical views on the crises-laden decade. Press coverage enables the reconstruction of Amish economic institutions and practices that are portrayed as a viable economic model at the end of the industrial age.

Martin Lutz is a post-doctoral lecturer and researcher in social and economic history at the Humboldt-University of Berlin. His previous research focused on German-Soviet economic relations and entrepreneurship and globalization in the 19th century. Lutz is currently a research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles.

After 20 Years: A Conservative Anabaptist Philosophy of Technology

Matt Landis

This talk reveals recurring themes in conservative Anabaptists’ thinking about and relationship to computer and Internet technology that has emerged over the last twenty years. The research is based on reviewing over twenty conservative Anabaptist (Amish, Mennonites, Brethren) statements on technology or personal interviews for those groups who do not have written statements. Sometimes the difference between Anabaptist groups’ views on technology is emphasized, but in this talk the goal is to focus on common themes that surface and how the efforts these groups have put into evaluating technology might be useful to a wider audience. This talk is an attempt to answer the question: What is a conservative Anabaptist philosophy of technology?

Matt Landis is a conservative Mennonite pastor and a technology consultant and author and is interested in the ongoing Anabaptist relationship to technology.


Continuity and Change: Amish Schools and Teachers

Mark Dewalt

Amish schools have seen tremendous growth since the first school, Apple Grove, started in Dover, Delaware, in 1954. Today, Amish parochial schools are an integral part of Amish culture. There are over 1,700 Amish schools in 26 states and the province of Ontario, Canada. In contrast, as of 1957 there were 56 Amish schools located in ten states and one province. Sixty-four percent of the schools were found in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Only three of these schools were served by two teachers. Eighty-two percent of the Amish teachers in 1957 were female, 21 percent had no teaching experience, and 43 percent had one year or less of teaching experience. The average number of years of experience was 2.4.

By 2015 80 percent of Amish teachers were female and the average years of experience had risen to 3.1 years. Twenty-five percent of Amish teachers were in their first year of teaching, and less than 1 percent had twenty-five or more years of experience.  It is interesting to note that 3 percent of Amish teachers now devote their time to special education students.

Mark W. Dewalt is professor of educational research at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. He has been studying Amish educational practices for over twenty years. Dewalt teaches courses in Educational Research, Educational Practices in China, and Amish Culture.

Anna Evenson is a graduate student in the Counseling program at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, working to become a middle school counselor. She is currently a research assistant in the College of Education working on several projects related to Amish culture and education

Problem-Solving in “Can you Help Me?” in Young Companion

Chiho Oyabu and Kana Oyabu

This paper deals with perception of Anabaptists and Amish youth which contribute to a stable continuation of their social system. We analyzed questions and answers posted in the “Can You Help Me?” section of Young Companion, an Anabaptist magazine aimed at young people that is subscribed to by a majority of Amish families. This is a problem-solving corner where readers with problems post their questions, and readers with solutions and advice answer the questions. So, both the questions and the answers reflect the ideas of readers. By looking at the questions and answers, we can observe ideas readers have on issues they are particularly concerned or interested in. The categories of questions we have analyzed were “Courtship, Marriage, Relationship,” “Work,” and “Family and Friend,, which were the categories that attracted the most questions and answers apart from categories concerning faith. We studied 26 questions and 524 answers to the questions. The results of the study shows the following: Those who posted questions and answers to the magazine are interested in courtship and marriage as a way to establish a good family life. Among the answers, there are many who advise a prayer as a way to solve the problems. Solutions that improve the situation for all people involved in the issue are valued more than solutions that aim to achieve individual happiness. Communication is regarded as very important in solving problems. Overall results suggest that readers of the magazine base their lives on faith, but they also see communication and families surrounding young people as important aspects in solving problems. Such perceptions contribute to a stable and sustainable Anabaptist and Amish social system.

Chiho Oyabu is a professor at Gifu University, Faculty of Education, in Japan. She teaches family budget analysis, Amish lifestyle, and family relations. She and Toshiharu Sugihara have translated three Amish books into Japanese, including The Riddle of Amish Culture by Donald B. Kraybill, Amish School by Sara Fisher and Rachel K. Stahl, and The Amish of Lancaster County by Donald B. Kraybill. She presented an Amish exhibition in Kyoto and Hokkaido, Japan, in 2010 and was a fellow at Young Center in 1998. She is interested in what influences shape the lifestyles of the Amish. A recipient of three Japanese government grants to study the Amish, she has also analyzed articles about education in Family Life.

Kana Oyabu is a professor of English and English literature at the Center of Foreign Language at Kanazawa University in Japan. She is interested in children’s literature and writings concerning religious communities such as the Amish and Islamic communities in Britain. She began studying the Amish three years ago with Chiho Oyabu. She recently received a grant from the Japanese government for research on the topic “Religious construction on children’s literature for Amish and Islamic people.” 


Plain People, Genomics and the Art of Translational Medicine

D. Holmes Morton

Dr. Morton is currently developing the Central Pennsylvania Clinic for Special Children and Adults in Kish Valley, a new medical clinic that will be built on land once belonging to Amish scholar John Hostetler, a long-time advocate for a health care facility in Kishacoquillas Valley. In his lecture, Morton will explore the interface between health care for special children and adults and research about their diseases. He will also highlight the variety of traditional medical and transitional treatment modalities used in his work.

D. Holmes Morton cofounded the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania, in 1989. A local pediatric medical center, the clinic has become recognized internationally for innovative studies in the discovery and treatment of inherited disorders. Dr. Morton received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. In 1993 he was awarded the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and in 2006 a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship.


Worms in the Amish Software: Coping with Risk in a Cyber World

Donald Kraybill

The vitality of Amish society over the last half century screams success. Yet beneath this glossy surface lie many snares for their way of life in the twenty-first century. Donald Kraybill will identify vulnerabilities in Amish culture that could impair their future in a cyber world. Some of these hazards are embedded the rise of business, use of technology, religious beliefs, and church organization among others.

Donald Kraybill, recently retired from teaching, continues to research and write about North America's Anabaptist communities. His most recent book, Renegade Amish (2014), tells the tale of the Bergholz barbers. He is the editor of Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.