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An Amish Paradox

, 376 pages

39 halftones, 3 line drawings, 4 maps

March 2010



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An Amish Paradox

Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community

Winner, 2011 Dale Brown Book Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies. Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College

Holmes County, Ohio, is home to the largest and most diverse Amish community in the world. Yet, surprisingly, it remains relatively unknown compared to its famous cousin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell conducted seven years of fieldwork, including interviews with over 200 residents, to understand the dynamism that drives social change and schism within the settlement, where Amish enterprises and nonfarming employment have prospered. The authors contend that the Holmes County Amish are experiencing an unprecedented and complex process of change as their increasing entanglement with the non-Amish market causes them to rethink their religious convictions, family practices, educational choices, occupational shifts, and health care options.

The authors challenge the popular image of the Amish as a homogeneous, static, insulated society, showing how the Amish balance tensions between individual needs and community values. They find that self-made millionaires work alongside struggling dairy farmers; successful female entrepreneurs live next door to stay-at-home mothers; and teenagers both embrace and reject the coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa.

An Amish Paradox captures the complexity and creativity of the Holmes County Amish, dispelling the image of the Amish as a vestige of a bygone era and showing how they reinterpret tradition as modernity encroaches on their distinct way of life.

Charles E. Hurst is emeritus professor of sociology at The College of Wooster and author of Social Inequality: Forms, Causes, and Consequences and Living Theory: The Application of Classical Social Theory to Contemporary Life. David L. McConnell is a professor of anthropology at The College of Wooster, coeditor of Soft Power Superpowers: Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United States, and author of Importing Diversity: Inside Japan’s JET Program.

"Hurst and McConnell's thorough, readable analysis of the world's largest Amish settlement is fascinating from a variety of perspectives... Highly recommended."

"Hurst and McConnell, obviously sympathetic to the Amish they study, are to be commended for their extensive research and their careful attention to nuance and exception."

"A number of excellent books have been written about the Amish in recent years and An Amish Paradox joins the ranks of the best of them. A wonderful book."

"A number of excellent books have been written about the Amish in recent years and An Amish Paradox joins the ranks of the best of them. Sociologist Charles Hurst and Anthropologist David McConnell not only bring an interdisciplinary expertise to their study, but also an intimate knowledge of the Amish in Ohio’s Holmes County Settlement area, as well as a sense of adventure, as they lead theirreaders on a journey through various domains of Amish life. Their presentation is knowledgeable, measured, and thoughtful and their clear and straightforward style of writing takes one through many facets of Amish life in Ohio at a horse and buggy pace—fast enough to cover the territory and maintain one’s interest, but slowly enough to point out the changing scenery en route and to really giveone a sense of the complex nuances that make up everyday Amish life."

" An Amish Paradox is a richly detailed and highly readable account of one settlement of Amish, perhaps the most visible ethnic religious minority in the United States. It is well-researched and free of jargon... [A] good choice for an advanced course in anthropology or sociology on religion, ethnicity, community, identity, or social change."

"There is no doubt that Charles Hurst and David McConnell's book about the Amish in the greater Holmes County settlement of northeast Ohio is an invaluable contribution to the literature."

"A study whose exhaustive research and careful analysis is a significant milestone in making diverse Amish communities relevant to a variety of scholars, including those focused on religion."

" An Amish Paradox is a fascinating and thorough study of the world’s largest Amish settlement, with all its diversity and dynamism. Hurst and McConnell offer keen observations on education, occupation, and health care, as well as insight into inter-Amish relationships and the place of those who leave the community."

"A fascinating book! This work offers a long-overdue exploration of the Holmes County area Amish community and clearly demonstrates how diverse Amish life is. As McConnell and Hurst show, while the Amish thrive, they don't all do so in the same way and may be as different from each other as they are from us. Well-written and engaging, An Amish Paradox offers much, both to the average reader and to the Amish expert."

"This is one of the finest books on the Amish that I have ever read. Not only do the authors introduce us to the richness, nuances, and paradoxes of Amish life in Holmes County,Ohio, but they write with a clarity and grace too often absent in thought-provoking books. I will make it required reading for my Amish cultures courses."

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