The Amish and Their Neighbors
A Multidisciplinary Conference
June 2-4, 2022
Carl Desportes Bowman
Director of Survey Research
Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia
The past two decades have witnessed extreme political polarization and paralysis, culture wars between progressives and conservatives, and racial diversity and division. These have been obvious and the focus of both media and scholarly commentary. What is less obvious are the tacit cultural tribes into which Americans sort themselves and their allegiances that often remain unrecognized and unspoken. Bowman's presentation will examine the American cultural context of the early twenty-first century, especially as it pertains to the Amish.
Carl Desportes Bowman is the author of Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a “Peculiar People,” Portrait of a People: The Church of the Brethren at 300, and coauthor with Donald Kraybill of On The Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. He has served since the 1990s as director of survey research at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture where he has taken the lead in designing and analyzing national surveys of political and moral culture. In this capacity, he has coauthored with James Davison Hunter a variety of monographs, including The State of Disunion, The Vanishing Center of American Democracy, The Culture of American Families, and The Context of Character: Teen Moral Formation in the 21st Century.
Rachel E. Stein
COVID-19 highlighted the prevalence and influence of misinformation within the Amish community and put Amish health care decisions into the media spotlight. However, the recent pandemic is not the only instance where the health behaviors of the Amish community have been subjected to public scrutiny. Stein will explore how the relationship between health officials and the Amish has developed over time and how public health directives were accepted (or not) in Amish communities during COVID-19.
Rachel E. Stein is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on community building and health in Amish communities. Her current work explores how Amish and Mennonite communities are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, how preventive health care decisions vary across Amish affiliations, how reproductive choices impact maternal health, and how visiting practices strengthen the Amish community and contribute to its growth.
Many Plain community families are stepping out of their comfort zones to provide foster care and adoption to mainstream children who have suffered abuse and neglect. While many experiences are positive, others are traumatic as families encounter a child welfare system that is unfamiliar with their culture and faith. Harder will present the findings of a qualitative research study she and a colleague conducted with Plain community families from diverse affiliations and geographic settings who have provided foster care and adoption for children. Themes presented will center around the home study and trainings, exchanges with case workers, experiences of caring for children, and the responses of their communities.
Jeanette Harder has been a professor of social work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha since 2004. She is the founder and director of the Support and Training for the Evaluation of Programs (STEPs), and the coauthor of For the Sake of Children: Love, Safety, and Abuse in Plain Communities (2019) (intended audience: Amish and Old Order Mennonites). Harder is the cofounder and a board member of Dove's Nest, a nonprofit organization that seeks to “empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their homes, churches, and communities.”
In recent years, political operatives have engaged in formal and informal efforts to register Amish voters and mobilize them on Election Day. In particular, the 2004, 2016, and 2020 presidential elections witnessed significant outreach efforts to members of the Old Order community in Pennsylvania and beyond. But to what extent did Amish participate in these elections? This presentation will provide a comparative analysis of Amish voter registration and voter turnout across these three elections.
Kyle Kopko is an adjunct professor of political science at Elizabethtown College and executive director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative service agency of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He holds a PhD in political science from The Ohio State University. Kopko is the author of more than 30 scholarly publications, and his research has been featured in national and international news outlets including the BBC, CNN, C-SPAN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.