On June 9-11, the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College will hold a wide-ranging conference devoted to the Amish.


Photo by Jerry

“Continuity and Change: 50 Years of Amish Society” is the name of the event. Here’s the description from the Young Center website:

The international conference will focus on changes and consistency within Amish communities during the years 1963 to 2013. This fifty-year time period is framed by the publication of Amish Society by John Hostetler (1963) and The Amish by Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (2013). The conference will highlight the many significant changes among the Amish during these five decades, such as population growth, cultural diversity, landmark legal decisions, the explosion of Amish-themed literature and media, health care issues, and the increasing involvement of Amish people in business. Speakers will also explore themes of continuity in Amish society such as family life, leadership patterns, dress, language, and transportation, among others. In addition, the conference will emphasize the advance and expansion of scholarship about the Amish.

Jeff Bach is Director of the Young Center. Below, Jeff answers four questions on the event:

1. Why should someone attend the conference?

Jeff Bach: People will find out firsthand about new research and findings about the Amish and will hear some interesting comparative studies about the Amish and some other religious groups, including ultra-orthodox Jews.

People who attend will learn about Amish studies that use a variety of disciplines, including health care and genetic research, agriculture, political science, language, religious and sociological approaches, gender studies, demographic studies and more.

Anyone who has an interest in the Amish will find something of interest among the variety of sessions offered at the conference.

2. On the continuity and change theme, what are some examples of change in Amish society over the past half century?

Jeff Bach: Some examples of change in Amish society include more Amish women going into business, more Amish families depending on work off of the farm, changing views on the use and adaptation of technology, and ways that Amish families access health care.

The growth and spread of Amish communities, including some new ones in Canada, are significant changes. Another interesting change is the growing interest in the Amish in various media sources. Some sessions will also explore changes in agricultural practices in Amish communities.

3. Any examples of unusual or unexpected topics that will be covered?

Jeff Bach: One seminar session will be devoted to how the Amish are portrayed in reality television shows. Some papers will address Amish and tourism. One paper offers a comparative look at how Amish women and Orthodox Jewish women use media. One plenary session will be devoted to the use of Pennsylvania German among the Amish; another plenary session will focus on the roles and activities of Amish women.

One presentation will explore the life and work of John Hostetler, and a panel will discuss the influence of Don Kraybill’s work on current understandings of the Amish. Some sessions will examine how the Amish are perceived in cultures outside of North America.

4. Anything else potential attendees should know?

Jeff Bach: On Thursday evening, Steve Nolt will interview Ann Hostetler, daughter of John Hostetler. She will talk about how some experiences of her grandparents as members of the Amish community influenced her father’s interest in writing about the Amish.

The conference includes the option to take one of three tours prior to the start of the conference. Each tour has a different theme, including health care, business and agriculture. People who take the tours will visit with Amish and members of plain communities to see and hear the impact of each of these topics. The tours include lunch in an Amish home. Space is limited for the tours, so people should sign up soon to reserve a place on a tour.

Whether attendees come for a day or the whole event, they will learn from scholars and practitioners about how dynamic life is in Amish communities.

You can find speaker, registration, and other information here, and view the conference brochure here. Early-bird registration discounts are available until May 1st; the deadline to register is May 20th.

Having participated in two previous Young Center Amish conferences, I can say it is not only a worthy educational experience, but also a good chance to see familiar faces and make some new friends as well.

I am planning to be at this event, will any of you be in attendance as well?

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