Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Presentation: Amish Diversity in Central Pennsylvania

12 to 1pm on Feb. 4 in the Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library

Mainstream depictions of the Amish often portray them as a monolithic, unchanging religious society. Tourism and popular media paint an Amish portrait of a farming sect with plain clothes and dark-colored buggies. However, Amish groups vary considerably and engage in a constant negotiation of cultural change. More than three centuries after their founding in Europe, defining the Amish is an ever more challenging enterprise. This presentation will highlight some of the differences within a single Amish settlement in nearby Kishacoquillas "Big" Valley, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. By showing how cultural identity partially relies on separation from outsiders, we will explore the education, language, dress, rituals, and other social and cultural identifiers of the Amish groups in Big Valley. Additionally, the presentation will show how cultural boundaries are formed and move throughout time as a group’s or individual’s identification changes. The presentation will rely on information contained in the John A. Hostetler and Gertrude E. Huntington Papers housed at the University Archives, as well as original research gleaned from the Big Valley Oral History Project, sponsored in part by the University Libraries. By exposing the university community to these Amish cultures, we can greater appreciate the diversity and lifestyles of our "plain" neighbors in Central Pennsylvania.

Joshua R. Brown is the Candace and Patrick E. Malloy graduate assistant in the University Archives and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literatures. He is the author and editor of several articles and books about the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch. His current book project with co-editor Julia Spicher Kasdorf (Associate Professor of English and Women’s Studies) will produce an annotated edition of Fred Lewis Pattee’s local color novel The House of the Black Ring through Penn State Press. Brown’s interests are primarily in minority languages, language death, and language & gender / sexuality.

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