Cory Anderson on the Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

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

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.

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    1. Robin McGowan


      I would be very interested in a copy of the Journal. Is there some way to subscribe to JAPAS or obtain the inaugural copy? Thank You

      1. Robin as for a regular subscription, I would check the number for the New Order publisher listed above, at the least they provide hard copies if that is what you have in mind.

      2. Sandra Kathleen

        To Robin

        Robin, what I did was to go to the URL provided above. This takes you to the whole journal, but it’s broken into PDF sections. So, I copied and pasted the whole of the first set of PDFs (essentially the Table of Contents for the Journal) into a Word doc…this enables me to click on the article to read, albeit online. However, you could download the entire document if you’re so inclined. I just am too tired of sorting and storing all the paper! Hope this helps. 🙂

    2. Sandra Kathleen

      Thank you for the article!

      Thanks for making the Journal so readily available. It looks like it’s going to be very interesting and a valuable resource.

    3. Carolyn B

      This seemed over my head. I’m looking forward to reading comments from all of you who better understand this. Thanks, Erik.

    4. Al in Ky

      Thanks so much for sharing this. And thanks to The Journal for
      making this available through the internet. I hope you’ll be
      able to share future issues via Amish America, Erik. I really
      enjoyed reading the article about the Iowa Amish — the state where
      I first experienced Amish life. I follow the news from several of
      the Iowa Amish settlements via The Budget, so it’s very interesting
      to read about some of the history and current life in those communities. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the issue
      in the days to come.

      1. Yes I agree Al–and at 200 pages it is practically a book so there is a lot of reading there. I appreciate this being made available as open source.

    5. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      This is probably a brilliant journal given the topic.
      I for one have never considered “Plain Anabaptists” before, I just figured Plain Anabaptists would either be considered Amish or Mennonite, broadly, and certainly not a doctoral candidate, pointing out Mr. Anderson’s credentials.

      It shouldn’t surprise me though that plain people can be fairly weighty educationally, I am lead to believe that there is a Mennonite University in Manitoba, I met some people a few years ago who were musicians in a rock band that traveled across Canada, far from Mennonites these boys where, I knew a cousin of K-W Mennonites at the time and he seemed to have a wink and a nod with the boys in the bad silently saying “Partying is a lot more fun than milking cow, isn’t it”

      Even the Amish are articulate folk when they desire to be so, the Moral talks Erik has been sharing has been proof of that.

    6. Cory Anderson

      JAPAS subscription link

      Dear readers,

      If you wish to subscribe to an automated email list and be informed when new issues of JAPAS are released, please visit:

      You may unsubscribe from this list at any time.

      Cory Anderson

      1. Lyle Kropf

        Verbal volley ball

        Dear Cory,
        While I have not read exhaustively in this periodical, what little
        I have seen troubles me.

        If I could give an illustration it would be this. In Florida there
        used to be( maybe still is) a volley ball tournament; it could be
        labeled “Mennonite Olympics). This is a fast moving game that not
        only thrills the participants , but also the spectators.

        It seems to me that to some degree, this sort of information could be like a volley ball game where ideas and information are like the
        ball. Participants and readers like the players and spectators.

        Christianity is not a game or a sport, or a display of wits and intelligence. It is about Jesus Christ and His followers who have a mandate to carry out His work on this earth. In this work, we are at war with an adversary , the devil. There is not time for distractions, vacations, or other entanglements.

        1. Bill Rushby

          Value of JAPAS: Another Perspective

          Lyle Kropf: Serious scholarship of the kind represented by JAPAS should not be seen as a kind of intellectual volleyball game. Instead, it should be viewed as a source of insight about God’s people, who they are, and how they function in the world. I believe that such insights are a valuable contribution to our understanding of Christian faith and witness.