Anthro talk: Martha King on Health & Illness among Lancaster Amish
Why do Amish uses of technology seem incongruous to outsiders? How can a community that refuses to drive cars agree to participate in groundbreaking forms of medical genetics?
Answering these questions requires understanding Amish group identity and cultural practice as the driving forces behind their negotiations with technology. Using healthcare as a lens for understanding this dynamic, this talk will describe the pluralistic healthcare system utilized by Amish church districts in the Lancaster, PA area. One part of that system—biomedicine—will be further elaborated through discussion about Amish cooperation with a cutting-edge genetic treatment/research facility, the Clinic for Special Children.
I will describe 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.