Accepted Paper:

Back to the buggies? Provocative thoughts from an ethnographic research among the old order Amish  

Author:

Andrea Borella

Paper short abstract:

The Amish live refusing many aspects of modernity. Among them, they shun cars and, consequently, keep driving buggies in the XXI Century America. Even if the return to carriages is not conceivable, I sustain that the analysis of the Amish lifestyle could improve the theories of the “slow movement.”

Paper long abstract:

The Amish are an Anabaptist church, widely known for their emphasis on tradition and steadfast refusal of many aspects of modernity.

Even if the perception of the Amish as a "vestige of a bygone past" must be considered as a simplistic analysis the Amish have undoubtedly shunned several technological and philosophical elements characterizing the "modern world."

My argument is that the Amish represent one of the few communities, living and striving in the XXI Century, which pose slowness as a pillar of their lifestyle.

As far as concerns technology, the Amish reject television, in-home telephones, computers, the internet, public electricity, many state-of-the-art tools, and so forth. Particularly striking is the shunning of cars. Indeed, the Amish utilize the buggies as means of transportation.

From an anthropological point of view, it is relevant that the prohibition to drive cars is religiously grounded, since the Amish church is one of the few communities whose members are compelled to drive carriages.

If the argument to go back to the past, reintroducing the use of carriages on a large scale, in substitution of automobiles, is not conceivable; the "Amish model," based on slowness, offers provocative thoughts for the "slow movement."

I maintain that Amish culture does not promote a naif idiosyncrasy towards technology, but a more sophisticated rejection of basic economical, political, and philosophical tenets of modernity, strictly related to speed: obsessive mobility of goods, money, and people.

This paper is based on a fieldwork conducted among the Amish, mainly in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Panel P069
Slow travelling: a precious heritage or a sustainable strategy for future mobilities? [ANTHROMOB & IUAES-Tourism]