Accepted paper:

An anthropogical analysis of the multiple sense of the use of the buggy among the Amish: communitarian vehicle, instrument of separation, and symbol of interreligious and intra-religious identities.


Andrea Borella

Paper short abstract:

In the XXI Century America the Amish keep using buggies as the main vehicle. Shunning cars, considered as one of the harmful aspects of Modernity, the Amish (and the outsiders alike) view buggies as part of their identity. Moreover, different types of buggies indicate also diverse Amish subgroups.

Paper long abstract:

The Amish are the members of a traditionalist Anabaptist church, which emphasizes the aloofness from the larger society, shunning all the aspects of Modernity that they consider dangerous for the unity of their community. Consequently, cars, which are seen, along with television, and the internet, fashion, political engagement, and public schools, as one of the "great separators" of the (post)modern world, are forbidden, according to Amish rules. Indeed, owning cars would allow the members to move too easily far from the community. Since that, the Old Order Amish keep driving buggies in the XXI Century America, sharing the rural roads of their settlements with cars and motorcycles that represent contemporary status symbols.

In this paper, I maintain that carriages, viewed as alternative vehicles, are both symbols of interreligious and intra-religious distinction. Indeed, from a socio-cultural perspective, on the one hand, buggies, with beards and bonnets, are part of the popular imaginary on the Amish, and likely the most evident aspects of their peculiar identity; on the other hand, there are many types, shapes and colors of carriages, which express differences between Amish (sub)groups.

This paper is based on long term anthropological research, conducted in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, where the author has lived for several months in an Amish family of buggymakers, and all the Amish use a common type of gray buggy; and in Kishacoquillas Valley, Pennsylvania, where three Amish groups (Byler, Nebraska, and Renno) live in the area, and distinguish themselves by using respectively, yellow, white, and black carriages.

panel P106
Auto-anthropocenes: alternative uses of roads and vehicles