Ethnologic Analysis of Amish Culture

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  • Topic: Amish, Wisconsin v. Yoder, Anabaptist
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Ethnologic Analysis of Amish Culture
Howard Tenke
Cultural Anthropology 101
Dr. Mark Bowles
February 13, 2012

Ethnologic Analysis of Amish Culture 2

The Amish when looked at from an etic perspective compared to twenty first century thinking can be seen in many ways; what they are however is a culture in flux with a rich history that can be traced to the Protestant Reformation that started with Martin Luther. Despite their popular image of being agrarian in recent years they have become manufacturers of hand crafted furniture and other household items. They have managed to maintain their simple lifestyle while the rest of the world around them has progressed at a break neck pace because of their adherence to the belief systems and social organization but their essentially cloistered life has begun to bring forth health issues resulting from their limited gene pool (Amish, 2004). While keeping their form of simple living at home some Amish however are joining the twenty first century.

History and settlement in North America
Old Order Amish or more simply known as “The Amish” are a distinct Mennonite sect that traces their beginnings to the Protestant Reformation in 1517 c.e. (Krybill & Bowman, 2001). Following the reformation in 1525 c.e. followers of Ulrich Zwingli (1484 – 1531) in Zurich, Switzerland unhappy with the pace of the reformation began the practice of rebaptisizing adults, a capital offense at the time, this group would become known as “Anabaptists” or “rebaptizers” (Krybill & Bowman, 2001). Anabaptism was seen as a threat to the church-state relationship and the resulting persecution caused members to move into remote places and take up an agrarian lifestyle to avoid detection; however thousands would die at the hands of Protestant, Catholic and civil authorities (Krybill & Bowman, 2001). From this movement would spring four sects beginning with the Mennonites in southern Germany and Switzerland, that have the direct line to the 1525 movement (Krybill & Bowman, Ethnologic Analysis of Amish Culture 3 2001), taking their name from Menno Simons (1496 – 1561), a catholic priest that joined the Anabaptist’s in 1536 c.e. (Good & Good, 1979) ; Hutterites, followers of Anabaptist leader Jacob Hutter (ca 1500 – 1536) wandered Europe to escape religious persecution until going to North America in the 1870’s, going their way in 1528 (Krybill & Bowmen, 2001); The Amish, primarily in Switzerland, which separated from the Mennonites in 1693 c.e. under the leadership of Jakob Ammann (c 1656 – c 1730); The Brethren, though an indirect connection to the Mennonites come from central Germany was founded in 1708 c.e. with the first recognized leader being Alexander Mack, Sr. (1679 – 1735) (Krybill & Bowman, 2001). As the Industrial Revolution advanced Anabaptist groups began to resist the changes in both society and technology giving rise to the “Old Orders” in the late nineteenth century c.e. (Krybill & Bowman, 2001), which are distinguished today by their plain dress and various living modes from Hutterite communes to individual unelectrified family farms and most of all for the Amish their black buggies.

The Amish began arriving in North America in the mid eighteenth century c.e. with others following in the nineteenth century c.e.. They began by settling near the earlier arriving Mennonite and Brethren communities in Pennsylvania (Krybill & Bowmen, 2001). As their communities grew they expanded west ward most notably to Ohio, which today contains the largest concentration of Amish in contrast to...
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