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The Hutterites in North America

Rod Janzen and Max Stanton

Publication Year: 2010

One of the longest-lived communal societies in North America, the Hutterites have developed multifaceted communitarian perspectives on everything from conflict resolution and decision-making practices to standards of living and care for the elderly. This compellingly written book offers a glimpse into the complex and varied lives of the nearly 500 North American Hutterite communities. North American Hutterites today number around 50,000 and have common roots with and beliefs akin to the Amish and other Old Order Christians. This historical analysis and anthropological investigation draws on existing research, primary sources, and over 25 years of the authors' interaction with Hutterite communities to recount the group's physical and spiritual journey from its 16th-century founding in Eastern Europe and its near disappearance in Transylvania in the 1760s to its late 19th-century transplantation to North America and into the modern era. It explains how the Hutterites found creative ways to manage social and economic changes over more than five centuries while holding to the principles and cultural values embedded in their faith. Religious scholars, anthropologists, and historians of America and the Anabaptist faiths will find this objective-yet-appreciative account of the Hutterites' distinct North American culture to be a valuable and fascinating study both of the religion and of a viable alternative to modern-day capitalism.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Figures, Tables, and Maps

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xviii

At the Wilson Siding Hutterite Colony in southern Alberta, German teacher Henry Wurz walks quickly across the yard late on a Thursday afternoon. He has been working in the garden. Sporting a reddish beard and very dusty pants, Henry says hello and invites us into his home, one of the colony’s many large single-family residences, with five or six bedrooms and a full basement. ...

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pp. xix-xx

Representatives from each of the Hutterite groups have responded to early drafts of the book, and we have taken their suggestions seriously. We especially acknowledge John S. Hofer, Patrick Murphy, and Tony Waldner, from the Schmiedeleut Two; Arnold Hofer, Edward Kleinsasser, Jacob Kleinsasser, Dora Maendel, Jonathan Maendel, and Kenny Wollman, ...

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CHAPTER 1. Communal Christians in North America

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pp. 1-11

In mid-July 1894, when Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family were traveling from De Smet, South Dakota, to Mansfield, Missouri, they encountered a group of “Russians” who lived in a “commune” on the James River, near the town of Bridgewater. Wilder observed in her diary that the “Russians,” who were “all dressed alike,” ...

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CHAPTER 2. Origins and History

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pp. 12-32

The Hutterites are the only continuously existing communal group with roots in sixteenth-century Anabaptism. The Anabaptists, who emerged in various parts of western Europe in the 1520s and 1530s, did not all hold the same beliefs and practices. But they vehemently disagreed with some of the most fundamental positions held by the Roman Catholic Church and state church Protestantism. ...

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CHAPTER 3. Immigration and Settlement in North America

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pp. 33-53

In the early 1870s, when the Hutterites were looking for a new place of refuge and exploring settlement options, two Hutterites were commissioned to accompany a Mennonite delegation of ten people on a study tour of the United States and Canada. ...

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CHAPTER 4. Four Hutterite Branches

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pp. 54-75

In general theology, there are few differences among the four Hutterite Leut. But religious and cultural practices vary, and Hutterites spend considerable time making Leut comparisons, pointing to differences, laughing about points of contention, and most of the time presenting their own group in the most favorable light. ...

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CHAPTER 5. Beliefs and Practices

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pp. 76-107

Community of goods, the central identifying characteristic of the Hutterites, is based on particular interpretations of the Bible that are supported by Hutterite sermons and hymns. Arising from these sources, Hutterite practices are backed up by the Ordnungen and by a serious commitment to church discipline. ...

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CHAPTER 6. Life Patterns and Rites of Passage

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pp. 108-137

Communal living has significant impact on Hutterite family values and the way children are brought up. Hutterites view “family” from a communal perspective. To some extent the entire Hutterite Leut, and especially one’s colony, is a large extended family. This understanding is cemented by theological understandings as well as endogamous relationships. ...

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CHAPTER 7. Identity, Tradition, and Folk Beliefs

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pp. 138-178

As an ethnoreligious group, the Hutterites have developed important sui generis identity markers. In addition to unique religious beliefs and practices, Hutterites speak an Austrian dialect and have developed distinctive styles of dress, culinary practices, and folk traditions. ...

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CHAPTER 8. Education and Cultural Continuity

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pp. 179-196

Until the past few decades, North American Hutterites did not support education beyond the elementary school level. Young people needed to learn to read and write and understand basic mathematical concepts and procedures, but nothing more.

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CHAPTER 9. Colony Structure, Governance, and Economics

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pp. 197-233

For Hutterites work is life and is enjoyed for what it is. Hutterites engage in hard physical labor and for very long hours. They like to quote Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever work you find to do, do it with all your might.” Hard work is also often seen by the Hutterites as a form of discipleship, a core component of the Christian faith. ...

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CHAPTER 10. Population, Demography, and Defection

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pp. 234-258

As the Hutterite Church continues to grow at fairly rapid rates, the Hutterites want to keep individual colony sizes small. But among the Leut and the colonies there are various expansion models. In addition, a significant 15 percent of residents decide not to stay in the community. ...

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CHAPTER 11. Managing Technology and Social Change

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pp. 259-272

Since the beginning of the group’s existence, Hutterites have found creative ways to manage social and economic change. They have always tried to do so from a communal Anabaptist theological perspective. Dealing with change appropriately is a major concern of Hutterite leaders, especially in the rapidly changing environment of the twenty-first century.

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CHAPTER 12. Relationships with Non-Hutterites

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pp. 273-294

Hutterites interact with people of many different religious and cultural backgrounds. There are regular contacts with non-Hutterite businesspeople, teachers, and shopkeepers. Hutterites need and sometimes cherish these relationships, but they also maintain social barriers in order to protect their distinctive way of life. ...

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CHAPTER 13. Facing the Future

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pp. 295-306

Even with all the many challenges that face them in the twenty-first century, the Hutterites are now living in a “Second Golden Age.” It is not a period exactly like the sixteenth-century Golden Years experience, but there are widespread similarities. ...

Appendix: Hutterite Colonies in North America, 2009

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pp. 307-319


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pp. 321-323


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pp. 325-346


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pp. 347-362


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pp. 363-373

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899256
E-ISBN-10: 0801899257
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801894893
Print-ISBN-10: 0801894891

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 39 halftones, 4 maps, 2 graphs
Publication Year: 2010