In This World but Not of It: Midwives, Amish, and the Politics of Power

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In this paper, I investigate the role of the non-Amish midwife in Amish society. Conventional research on the Amish has overlooked the role the midwife plays in the structure of the Amish community, given that midwives who serve the Amish are not members of the community they serve and are not themselves Amish. Despite their status as outsiders to Amish society, I draw on ethnographic data collected during a two-year study with a non-Amish midwife to argue that the non-Amish midwife provides Amish women and men access to knowledge about sex and sexuality, provides them resources such as books and condoms, and shapes the structure of Amish society through these channels. Her power is clearly demonstrated in her ability to broker access between the Amish and non-Amish worlds, and her fingerprints on the community she serves exist long after she has caught a baby. So while the non-Amish midwife has largely remained invisible when viewed from conventional analyses of Amish society, I suggest that her position on the margin between Amish and non-Amish society is worth considering. As an analytic category, this position 'neither fully part of Amish society nor fully extricated from it' has something to offer studies of community power within the field of Sociology and augment future studies of Amish society.

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Sociological Research Online





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open access

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