The Amish is a 500-some page university press-sized handbook that touches on a variety of topical areas. The book is the culmination of two and a half decades each of Kraybill’s, Johnson-Weiner’s, and Nolt’s work about the Amish. Karen Johnson-Weiner published a series of linguistic studies through the 1990s, and from these spring-board works later explored more fully schools and New York settlements. Donald Kraybill’s first Amish-focused publication was a Durkheimian study of the Amish and suicide in 1986. From then on he has maintained this functionalist orientation in comparative studies of plain Anabaptists and Amish responses to cultural, economic, and political change. Steven Nolt’s work follows two threads: Amish history, of which his A History of the Amish (1992) stands as the premiere testament, and Amish identity, realized most fully in Plain Diversity (2007), co-authored with Thomas Meyers. While Kraybill and Nolt have collaborated on seven publications, this is Johnson-Weiner’s first publication with either.
Given the book’s volumous size and its claim to be the first generalist book about the Amish since John Hostetler’s first edition of Amish Society (1963), we as co-editors felt the book merited special review via a symposium in JAPAS. Three respondents provide reviews: a scholar of the Amish, a scholar outside Amish studies, and an Amishman. The first is Steven Reschly, a JAPAS editorial board member whose research focuses on Midwestern Amish and Amish from around the 1870s to 1930s. His work extends Bourdieau’s theories by arguning for a community-based Amish repetoire of action. The second reviewer is Benjamin Zeller, who has published several books about New Religious Movements and religion & food. He is Assistant Professor of Religion at Lake Forest College. The third reviewer is Tom Coletti, a long-term convert to the Amish and a farmer in the Union Grove, NC, community. Megan Bogden, a former student in Ohio State University’s Amish Society course, provides a brief book summary.
—Cory Anderson, co-editor
Bogden, Megan, Steven Reschly, Benjamin Zeller, Tom Coletti, Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt. 2014. "The Amish Symposium." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 2(2):278-302.