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.
Sociology and Anthropology
Foster, Kathryn, "“You Can’t Change What You Were”: Liminality and the Process of Role Exit Among Former Amish" (2016). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 7353.
Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology
amish, ex-amish, liminality, role exit, capital
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar
© Copyright 2016 Kathryn Foster