At last month’s Amish technology conference, I had a chance to meet Cory Anderson, one of the founders of a new publication called the Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies (JAPAS).

I asked Cory a few questions about JAPAS, which you’ll find below.  I have been enjoying the articles in the inaugural issue, which you can access online, for free, here.

Amish America: How would you describe the Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies?

Cory Anderson: The publication focuses on plain Anabaptist groups in seven broadly defined traditions: the Swiss Brethren/Mennonites, the Low German/Russian Mennonites, the Hutterites, the Amish (of course), the Brethren/German Baptists, the Apostolic Christians, and the Bruderhof. It is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, much like Mennonite Quarterly Review, Journal of Mennonite Studies, or Brethren Life & Thought. Unlike these journals, we focus on empirical (data-based) and theoretical scholarship more so than philosophical, theological, or compositional.

JAPAS LogoAs a co-founder, I sensed that much empirical and theoretical scholarship about the Amish and other plain Anabaptist groups lacked a publishing outlet. MQR and other Anabaptist journals publish articles on plain Anabaptists from time to time, but their focus is otherwise on mainline Anabaptists. Journals outside Anabaptist studies are often reluctant to publish articles in this subfield because of the purportedly narrow focus of the topic. Books have been received well in Amish studies since the field’s beginnings in 1942, but books alone cannot account for the varied research projects out there. Thus, this journal is a response to a demand I sensed among scholars, an outlet for article-length research.

In addition, because it will be published regularly, my hope is that the journal will be an ongoing venue for Amish and plain Anabaptist scholars to engage one another’s work. Scholarship moves forward when multiple voices are present, engaging one another in fruitful debate, and journals are well situated to provide the forum. In the 1980s, Marc Olshan challenged John Hostetler’s use of the “folk society” to characterize the Amish, arguing that the Amish are actually modernistic in many ways. That research piece, and several other ones thereafter, was published in journals, major journals. The discussions following Olshan’s original 1981 work enriched the field, as did a set of journal article-length linguistic studies over the same period, but the field has had very little debate like this before or since then, on this topic or any other. Yet, scholars from across the country and across disciplines are producing research, but there comparatively little engagement with one another’s work. I attribute this dearth primarily to the lack of regularly available scholarly space to engage our scholarship. Other journals have not taken a strong interest; book-sized research is typically too time consuming for regular discussion, tending as well to be too all-encompassing and total for a focused test of hypotheses and theories. The result has been a degree of scholarly fragmentation in Amish and plain Anabaptist studies, characterized over its 72-year history by a small network or two and a vastly diffused set of scholars working largely in isolation.

What is your background and connection to the journal?

I am a doctoral candidate in rural sociology at Ohio State University, as well as a plain Anabaptist. Dr. Joseph Donnermeyer, also of OSU in rural sociology, and I are co-editors. His research focuses on Amish migration, settlement patterns, and population while I study contemporary plain Anabaptist diversity, with a particular focus on the Amish-Mennonites, a major subgroup in the Amish religious tradition that has adopted automobiles and an evangelical emphasis.

What topics will JAPAS cover? When is it published?

Our goal is to include a broad range of topics. In the first issue, we have articles about geography, sociological theory, demography, entrepreneurship, social networks, and history. Future articles will deal with pedagogy, music, literature, environment and agriculture, community, and whatever other research scholars pursue. At this time, the journal will be published twice a year, in April and October.

Why did you decide to make the journal open source, and what does that mean exactly?

An open source journal means that the articles are posted online and are free to all. You can download the articles and print them out or read them on your computer. An open access journal reduces administrative issues, such as printing, maintaining subscription lists, and collecting fees, allowing us to focus more on the journal content. It also potentially makes the journal available to a wider readership. Realizing some people prefer hard copies and many in plain Anabaptist circles do not have easy access to the Internet, we asked a New Order Amish company, Ridgeway Publishers, to print a limited number of copies, in essence, outsourcing this work. They may be contacted at 888-822-7894. The journal is available online at http://hdl.handle.net/1811/54889.

Who would appreciate reading JAPAS?

Scholars, of course, but I suspect this journal will be of broader interest as well. Because the journal is inclusive of multiple disciplines from across the social sciences and humanities, we will need to talk on each other’s level and this will go a long way toward making it reader-friendly for all.

How can someone submit an academic paper for the journal, and what are the requirements?

We encourage two types of submissions, which may be emailed to Joseph Donnermeyer or me. First, we are interested in empirically-based (quantitative or qualitative data) and theoretical articles from the scholarly community. Second, we solicit articles from plain Anabaptist people who have a research bent, and whose research is as valid as any scholar’s, but for whom journal formatting, style, and content structure may be less familiar. We seek to bridge this gap by not superimposing an alien framework on their research, but evaluating it on the merits of good research practices. Part of the journal process is “peer review,” so all articles submitted will be subject to evaluation by other scholars, resulting in one of three responses: acceptance, conditional acceptance on satisfactory revisions, or a rejection.

What will readers find in the inaugural issue?

In the first issue, Joseph Donnermeyer and I oriented the journal with three articles. The first article is “Where Are the Plain Anabaptists?” wherein we mapped the location of churches from the seven plain Anabaptist traditions in the U.S. and Canada. Second, I presented “Who Are the Plain Anabaptists? What Are the Plain Anabaptists?” Here, I defined the plain Anabaptists by religious tradition, by conservative/Old Order, and by scales; I also defined what plain Anabaptists are, concluding they are, in a nutshell, “ethno-religious societies,” containing three indispensable concepts. We then presented findings from a recent census of the Amish in a third article. The remaining three articles from other authors examine the Amish of Iowa, Amish engagement in the tourism industry near Arthur, IL, and a recent New Order Amish/Charity division from the Old Order Amish in Allen County, IN.