Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Cultural Contexts of Health and Illness Among the Lancaster Amish

This work uses anthropological approaches to navigate and elucidate the cultural dynamics of the Lancaster Amish. Group identity and cultural practice are understood here as the driving forces behind Amish negotiations with technology. Using healthcare as a lens for understanding this dynamic, this dissertation delineates a pluralistic healthcare system utilized by Amish church districts in the Lancaster, PA area. One part of that system--biomedicine--is further elaborated through discussion about Amish cooperation with a cutting-edge genetic treatment/research facility, the Clinic for Special Children (CSC). This research was motivated by two broad questions. How do Lancaster Amish districts shape their use of medical and other technologies? And how does CSC create a biomedical environment where this kind of cultural negotiation can occur? A number of conceptual frameworks are put into play here: identity and action in cultural worlds; medical pluralism and health technologies; and processes of embodiment. This dissertation describes ways in which the Amish body mediates the self and the community, intercedes for that community with the outside, and builds the artifacts that populate their cultural worlds. Those bodies are deeply imbedded in what it means to be Amish--from the twisting double helix of a Lancaster Amish genotype to the daily implications of living in closed religious communities. Using qualitative methods, this dissertation adds vital richness to medical anthropology and Amish studies while providing an excellent case for understanding challenges occurring in translational medicine.