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Selling the Amish

, 224 pages

16 halftones, 4 maps

February 2012



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Selling the Amish

The Tourism of Nostalgia

More than 19 million tourists flock to Amish Country each year, drawn by the opportunity to glimpse "a better time" and the quaint beauty of picturesque farmland and handcrafted quilts. What they may find, however, are elaborately themed town centers, outlet malls, or even a water park. Susan L. Trollinger explores this puzzling incongruity, showing that Amish tourism is anything but plain and simple.

Selling the Amish takes readers on a virtual tour of three such tourist destinations in Ohio’s Amish Country, the world’s largest Amish settlement. Trollinger examines the visual rhetoric of these uniquely themed places—their architecture, interior decor, even their merchandise and souvenirs—and explains how these features create a setting and a story that brings tourists back year after year.

This compelling story is, Trollinger argues, in part legitimized by the Amish themselves. To Americans faced with anxieties about modern life, being near the Amish way of life is comforting. The Amish seem to have escaped the rush of contemporary life, the confusion of gender relations, and the loss of ethnic heritage. While the Amish way supports the idealized experience of these tourist destinations, it also raises powerful questions. Tourists may want a life uncomplicated by technology, but would they be willing to drive around in horse-drawn buggies in order to achieve it?

Trollinger's answers to important questions in her fascinating study of Amish Country tourism are sure to challenge readers’ understanding of this surprising cultural phenomenon.

Susan L. Trollinger is an associate professor of English at the University of Dayton, author of Mennonite Church USA Congregations: Findings of the Faith Communities Today Survey, and coeditor of Anabaptists and Postmodernity.

"Millions of people (this reviewer included) visit Ohio's Amish country, but few consider the penetrating insights Trollinger raises... Following an excellent review of Amish history and belief, she looks at what tourists find when they 'connect' with the plain people... A great book!"

"Trollinger begins Selling the Amish with a praiseworthy overview of Amish history. She enriches her analysis with theories and concepts of tourism: consumer culture, preservation, authenticity, social drama, commemoration, and exotic encounters."

"The book is highly readable and well documented, making it accessible to students and useful to scholars and those interested in Amish studies."

"Susan Trollinger... covers many Amish Country themes that reveal much about tourists and their ideas of the Amish in her book Selling the Amish: The Tourism of Nostalgia... She makes the book accessible to a general audience by writing both as a tourist and as an academic."

" Selling the Amish offers insights into Amish Country tourism that are both original and convincing. Trollinger’s attention to detail, and her judicious use of theory, means nothing less than a fresh new reading of this deeply American phenomenon."

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