The Amish have always struggled with the modern world. Known for their simple clothing, plain lifestyle, and horse-and-buggy mode of transportation, Amish communities continually face outside pressures to modify their cultural patterns, social organization, and religious world view.Read more...
The Amish have always struggled with the modern world. Known for their simple clothing, plain lifestyle, and horse-and-buggy mode of transportation, Amish communities continually face outside pressures to modify their cultural patterns, social organization, and religious world view. An intimate portrait of Amish life, The Amish explores not only the emerging diversity and evolving identities within this distinctive American ethnic community, but also its transformation and geographic expansion.
Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt spent twenty-five years researching Amish history, religion, and culture. Drawing on archival material, direct observations, and oral history, the authors provide an authoritative and sensitive understanding of Amish society.
Amish people do not evangelize, yet their numbers in North America have grown from a small community of some 6,000 people in the early 1900s to a thriving population of more than 275,000 today. The largest populations are found in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, with additional communities in twenty-seven other states and Ontario.
The authors argue that the intensely private and insular Amish have devised creative ways to negotiate with modernity that have enabled them to thrive in America. The transformation of the Amish in the American imagination from "backward bumpkins" to media icons poses provocative questions. What does the Amish story reveal about the American character, popular culture, and mainstream values? Richly illustrated, The Amish is the definitive portrayal of the Amish in America in the twenty-first century.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-03-18
- Reviewer: Staff
In this companion piece to the PBS American Experience documentary of the same name, Kraybill, Johnson-Weiner, and Nolt (professors at Elizabethtown College, S.U.N.Y.-Potsdam, and Goshen College, respectively) present a comprehensive collection of history and modern research on the Amish, whose religion continues to draw converts and grow in number despite its strict doctrine of simplicity and humility. The authors successfully address the seeming exoticism of the Amish without sensationalism. Following a solid grounding in Amish history from its origins in Europe in the 1500s to middle America in the 1950s, the authors frame their expansive work around the “Amish struggle with modernity,” devoting attention to Amish religious beliefs and the way those beliefs are put into practice through ritual and tradition. The authors take care to describe the wide range of Amish practices, from those of more traditional communities living as they might have 200 years ago to others that allow their teenagers to have cell phones and drive cars. Particular attention is paid to debunking myths surrounding the teenage rite of Rumspringa, a time of contemplation before full commitment to the church through baptism. The scholarship is enlivened with quotes and personal anecdotes, and the final section on the future of the Amish raises fascinating questions, even for casual readers. (June)