Editor’s introduction—This symposium offers the reviews of two authors who, without sparing whatever criticism can be mustered, hold her work up as archetypal for rigorous methods and theory in plain Anabaptist studies. I have little more to say about Luann Good Gingrich’s work than that it is has been long, long in waiting. But let me add just a bit more and say why.

Now here is a study where a researcher has brought thick theory to interpret meticulously collected and presented interview data about a plain Anabaptist group (Old Colony Mennonites) in the context of broader forces. Yet, with her findings, she rejects the classic pattern in Amish and plain Anabaptist studies to engage in topical incest; instead, she pollinates larger theory with new life. Situated in social work, Good Gingrich’s research has broad implications for the social sciences, both for strengthening Bourdieu’s theories and in bringing into focus from the Old Colony Mennonite case the inherent contradictions in the Canadian welfare and market system. Good Gingrich’s investigation of these Mennonites is fresh food for thought, instantly palatable, to the hungry scholar in Amish and plain Anabaptist studies. For one, she avoids the long-rooted dichotomy of insider/outsider and instead explores the permanent temporality of separatist Mennonites engaging the world (and vice versa), an umbrella for many other suspended contradictions in both Mennonite and state habituses and fields. The Mennonites are, ultimately, socially excluded (marginally included) by both self-imposition and the Canadian social field.

Her work should be emulated in at least three ways. First, transcribed quotes are extensive. Not only are the conclusions drawn from data verifiable in the text but her respondents are given voice far beyond the small snippets—or even absence—of voice in most other monographs about plain people. Second, she feels no obligation to entertain the readers with factoids and descriptive passages about Old Colony Mennonites, but, after presenting necessary data and background, moves for a page—or even pages—into theorizing that may make little to no direct mention of Mennonites. Her focus is broadly conceptual and purposive, not a stream of Mennonite trivia. Finally, her conclusions are cautious and, ultimately, inconclusive, far from the boastful, publicity-conscious, definitive-sympathetic-authoritative-comprehensive study of an insider. The study opens more questions than answers, inviting other scholars to contribute.

—Cory Anderson, editor, Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies



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