The Undistinguished Scholar of the Amish, Werner Enninger, -or- Has the Time Yet Come for Rigorous Theory in Amish Studies?

Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies

Anderson, Cory. 2017.


Research Points
  • German semiotician Werner Enninger’s theoretically rich work has been neglected, perhaps due to his work’s technicality and publication in obscure outlets. Yet, his work is brilliant; this review rectifies his neglect by synthesizing his 30+ English language publications about the Amish into a meta-theory.

  • Enninger’s meta-theory fuses structural functionalism and symbolic interactionism, linking macro structures to micro interactions to explain stability and change.

  • Central is (a) the concept of the Amish “superstructure” consisting of (b) values like community and separation that shape (c) concrete norms and expectations around roles that are (d) internalized and produce (e) the Amish role system.

  • (f) Shared knowledge of role attributes allows for (g) identification of roles during interactions, distributing privileges and obligations.

  • Roles can be obligatory (central), optional (peripheral), or forbidden; attributes like dress, language, and buggies signal roles individuals take on in interactions.

  • (h) Repeated interactions reproducing roles and expectations reinforce the stability of the social system.

  • In central realms with institutionalized events, roles are ascribed and fixed (role-taking); in peripheral diffuse realm with non-institutionalized events, roles are negotiable (role-making) and norms are vague, which allows for gradual social change.

  • Language choice of Pennsylvania German, English, or High German depends on the roles individuals take on during interactions.

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