This past weekend, Elizabethtown College’s Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies held their annual Amish Conference, which drew a crowd of both Amish enthusiasts and members of the Plain community. This year’s conference focused on the challenges and effects of current technology on the Amish. Speakers at the conference included the authors of The Amish, which ForeWord recently called “a must-read for anyone willing to look beyond the horse-and-buggy stereotype.” This new volume, written by Amish experts Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt, is a companion book to the PBS American Experience documentary of the same name, which one Amish man called “quiet, compelling, and powerful.”
Sessions at the conference included Professor Kraybill’s “From the Buggy to the Byte: How the Amish Tame Technology,” which explored basic Amish values that guide decisions about the acceptance and rejection of new technology, and “A Tale of Two Kitchens: Gender and Technology in Amish Communities,” in which Professor Johnson-Weiner looked at how notions of gender have influenced the acceptance of new technology in different Amish communities and examined the ways in which communities’ adoption of new work habits and technology have contributed to changing notions of gender and gender relationships. These discussions might seem odd to those who entertain romantic ideas of the Amish way of life being uniformly stuck in the eighteenth century, but some Amish communities are actually incorporating new technologies fairly quickly. Valerie Weaver-Zercher, author of the recently published The Thrill of the Chaste, gave a plenary address that explored “The Secret Life of an Amish Romance Novel.” Who would have guessed that every question in the proceeding question-and-answer session would have come from men?
Interested in learning more about the Amish? Tune in to hear Professor Kraybill, who will appear on WHYY’s RadioTimes on June 11 between 11 a.m. and noon. Take a look at the aforementioned book by Professors Kraybill, Johnson-Weiner, and Nolt; check out our digital shorts, The Amish and Technology and From Rumspringa to Marriage; and visit the Young Center’s website. A dig into our Anabaptist and Pietist studies list turns up such gems as Selling the Amish: The Tourism of Nostalgia, by Susan L. Trollinger; An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community, by Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell; and Growing Up Amish: The Teenage Years, by Richard A. Stevick. Janneken Smucker’s Amish Quilts and Duane C.S. Stoltzfus’s Pacifists in Chains: The Persecution of Hutterites during the Great War are coming our later this year.