Ethnography of the Amish
Mentor: Dr. Charles Jarvis
Module 3A Ethnographic Paper
With the modernization of a large part of the world during the 20th century, almost all people, except for third world countries, have moved from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. There is one group of people, known as the Amish, who for religious and faith based reasons, have resisted the technological advance of society and instead opted to live a simple life that resembles the pre-industrial era. The majority of the Amish live and work on their own farms within the context of a close-knit community.
The Amish culture is fascinating as it is one where the horse and buggy is still the primary means of transportation. People from all over the world visit Amish Country in Ohio to find out more about them. One of the typical questions about Amish concerns the various orders and the different rules and restrictions they have in attempting to live apart from the world. Although there are numerous orders of Amish with a variety of principles to live by, they are in fact, all parts of the same group. They all possess the same core faith and desire to live a life set apart from the world for the glory of God. This ethnographic paper taken from my interviews with Amish neighbors and friends will demonstrate the similarities and differences found among Amish orders in Holmes County, Ohio and give a structural taxonomy of an Amish Farm, their main occupation.
Holmes County, Ohio.
The Anabaptist movement began in the 16th century with the Swiss Brethren reformers Felix Manz (1498-1527) and Conrad Grebel (1498-1526). They chose to reject infant baptism in favor of believer’s baptism. Anabaptists believed that baptism should come after confession of faith in Christ and not as an infant. In the same period the Dutch reformer Menno Simons (1496-1561) formalized the teachings of the Swiss Anabaptist and started what became known as the Mennonite movement. They were heavily persecuted for baptizing again those who made a personal decision to accept Christ as their Savior. The Amish name comes from Jacob Amman (1656-1730), a Swiss Mennonite who believed that many Anabaptists were “drifting away from the teachings of Menno Simons and the 1632 Mennonite Dordrecht Confession of Faith” (Amish 2012). Thus a more conservative group of Anabaptists formed known today as the Amish. Fleeing persecution, religious wars, and poverty, the Amish first migrated to Pennsylvania in the 18th century and then into Ohio in 1808. As the above topographical map of Amish church districts shows, the largest population of Amish now live in Ohio, and specifically Holmes County. There are about 60,000 Amish living in Ohio with over 400 church districts and 30,000 Amish with 227 church districts are in Holmes County. Although there is much variety among different orders, all Amish maintain a simplicity of life they feel is more in line with God’s Word and speak in their own language called Pennsylvania Dutch, which is a mixture of German, Dutch and English (Kraybill 2001, 104). My family has been blessed for the past 9 years to live in East Holmes County on what is currently a 300 acre Amish farm. When contemplating a culture that I would like to learn more about for my ethnographic interview project, our Amish friends and neighbors immediately came to mind. As an Innkeeper I am often asked about the various orders of Amish and also about the agrarian, live off the land, way of life they embody as a people group. Thus I chose to focus my ethnographic research on the cultural scene of types of Amish and the qualities of an Amish farm. My desire is to gain understanding from an insider’s perspective...