Aside from reality television, which often depicts former Amish as raucous partiers, many documentaries and memoirs portray ex-Amish as runaways, leaving in the night with nothing but the clothes on their back. As the gap between “the world” and the Amish closes, how accurate is this portrayal of leaving the Amish for the roughly 15% who choose to leave? How do ex-Amish negotiate the transition from Amish to English (non-Amish) life? This study, based on interviews with former Amish, explores the difficult decision to leave the Amish church as well as the challenges of transitioning into English life and negotiating an ex-role. Drawing on Victor Turner’s concept of liminality, Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of capital, and Ebaugh’s model of role exit, I explore the multiple and conflicting meanings of leaving an ethnoreligious group. The findings suggest that the current literature on ex-Amish fails to capture the diversity of former Amish experiences, as more liberal Amish in the sample typically had a smoother transition into English life. However, this study shows that issues of embodied cultural capital and a state of liminality persist long after one has exited a role in an ethnoreligious group.


McConnell, David


Sociology and Anthropology


Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology


amish, ex-amish, liminality, role exit, capital

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2016 Kathryn Foster