Presentation discusses Amish diversity in central Pennsylvania

January 21, 2011

"Amish Diversity in Central Pennsylvania," a lecture, will be presented by Joshua R. Brown from noon to 1 p.m. 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.

The presentation will highlight some of the differences within a single Amish settlement in nearby Kishacoquillas “Big” Valley, in Mifflin County, Pa. By showing how cultural identity partially relies on separation from outsiders, the talk will explore the education, language, dress, rituals, and other social and cultural identifiers of the Amish groups in Big Valley. It will show how cultural boundaries are formed and move throughout time as a group’s or individual’s identification changes. Sponsored by the University Libraries and its Diversity Committee, the presentation intends to create a greater appreciation of the diversity and lifestyles of the “plain” neighbors in central Pennsylvania.

Brown's presentation is based on information in the John A. Hostetler and Gertrude E. Huntington Papers housed at the University Archives and his research gleaned from the Big Valley Oral History Project, sponsored in part by the University Libraries. Brown is the Candace and Patrick E. Malloy graduate assistant in the University Archives and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and 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," published by the Penn State Press. Brown’s interests are primarily in minority languages, language death and language, gender and sexuality.

Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Jackie Esposito or 814-863-3791 in advance of your participation or visit.

  • IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated January 09, 2015