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Riddle Of Amish Culture by Donald B.…

Riddle Of Amish Culture (edition 1992)

by Donald B. Kraybill

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201558,418 (3.85)12
Title:Riddle Of Amish Culture
Authors:Donald B. Kraybill
Info:Johns Hopkins University (1992), Paperback
Collections:Books Read in 2010

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The Riddle of Amish Culture (Center Books in Anabaptist Studies) by Donald B. Kraybill



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I read this for a series of talks by a ex-Amish man, who appreciates its accuracy while criticizing the author's role as a filter and a buffer, presenting and protecting the Amish. The book is sociological in tone, organized by theme, with occasional quotes but mostly impersonally academic, informative but not immersive. It begins with a chapter on Anabaptist history: the separation of Amish and Mennonite (to shun or not to shun), and divisions among the Amish (house worship or meetinghouse worship, rejection or acceptance of technology). It ends with a chapter summarizing the regulation of social change, the considerations behind decisions. In between are chapters portraying the Amish as a dynamic community, entwined with, and continuously negotiating with, the outside world. A cultural ideal is Gelassenheit, a word that can be translated as yielding to a higher authority, submission, humility, simplicity, contentment, a word that our speaker said he'd never heard among the Amish, though he accepts its meaning and importance. The immediate authority is the bishop and the Ordnung. School stops after 8th grade, with an additional "vocational" year in concession to legal requirements. Independent thinking is not esteemed. To the outside observer, change is not glaringly apparent, but it occurs. Electricity is limited to batteries, but much can be done with pneumatic and hydraulic power, there is no lack of mechanical creativity in converting modern farm equipment for use with the symbolically essential horse, and people are always nudging the boundaries. Under economic pressure, the Amish have been shifting from agriculture to business. All is presented straightforwardly and unsentimentally, though generally with a positive spin from the perspective of the Amish. In this context, the riddles / puzzles / paradoxes became irritating: why calculators but not computers? why scooters but not bicycles? why is it OK to ride in a car but not own one? as if a tourist brochure got stirred into textbook. Still, it's not for nothing that the author is the go-to guy for everything Amish.

(read 26 Mar 2012)
  qebo | Mar 31, 2012 |
A wonderful study of the Amish community found in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. The book walks you through the community's historic and theological origins in the persecution and subsequent flight of Anabaptist Christians from 18th century Europe.

The largest part of the book is taken up with an examination of how the Amish have accomplished their "negotiations" with modernity, and explains the rationale behind some of the "contradictions" (riding in a car but not owning one) that we tend to label as hypocrisy. It was fascinating for this non-Amish Christian to see a community where social and technological "developments" of our modern age are consciously (if un-systematically) discerned and judged with regard to their impact on faith and culture. As Catholics (for example) we're not called to the same "separationist" approach to the modern world. But in my view we could do with a lot more in the way of a conscious discernment of the wider "secular" culture in which we find ourselves. Highly recommended.
  johnredmond | Jul 8, 2010 |
This is an exhaustive relation of the theory behind being Amish. I truly believe I understand their ways now, though I don't agree with some of them, such as not talking about issues with your children and expecting them to sow wild oats...that's just trouble waiting to happen... ( )
  BoundTogetherForGood | Jan 23, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080186772X, Paperback)

Since its publication in 1989, The Riddle of Amish Culture has become recognized as a classic work on one of America's most distinctive religious communities. But many changes have occurred within Amish society over the past decade, from westward migrations and a greater familiarity with technology to the dramatic shift away from farming into small business which is transforming Amish culture. For this revised edition, Donald B. Kraybill has taken these recent changes into account, incorporating new demographic research and new interviews he has conducted among the Amish. In addition, he includes a new chapter describing Amish recreation and social gatherings, and he applies the concept of "social capital" to his sensitive and penetrating interpretation of how the Amish have preserved their social networks and the solidarity of their community.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This study of Amish culture discusses the changes that have taken place in Amish society since the first edition was published. The author incorporates new demographic data and interviews he has conducted among the Amish.

(summary from another edition)

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