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A Cappella
Mennonite Voices in Poetry
Ann Hostetler
University of Iowa Press, 2003

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The Constructed Mennonite
History, Memory, and the Second World War
Hans Werner
University of Manitoba Press, 2013

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Desert Patriarchy
Mormon and Mennonite Communities in the Chihuahua Valley
Janet Bennion
University of Arizona Press, 2004
On the high desert plateau of northern Mexico, outsiders have taken refuge from the secular world. Here three Anglo communities of Mormons and Mennonites have ordered their lives around male supremacy, rigid religious duty, and a rejection of modern technology and culture. In so doing, they have successfully adapted to this harsh desert environment.

Janet Bennion has lived and worked among these people, and in this book she introduces a new paradigm—"desert patriarchy"—to explain their way of life. This perspective sheds light not only on these particular communities but also on the role of the desert environment in the development and maintenance of fundamentalist ideology in other parts of the United States and around the globe.

Making new connections between the arid environment, opposition to technology, and gender ideology, Bennion shows that it is the interplay of the desert and the unique social traditions and gender dynamics embedded in Anglo patriarchal fundamentalism that accounts for the successful longevity of the Mexican colonies. Her model defines the process by which male supremacy, female autonomous networking, and religious fundamentalism all facilitate successful adaptation to the environment.

More than a theoretical analysis, Desert Patriarchy provides an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of these people, showing how they have taken refuge in the desert to escape religious persecution, the forced secular education of their children, and economic and political marginalization. It particularly sheds light on the ironic autonomy of women within a patriarchal system, showing how fundamentalist women in Chihuahua are finding numerous creative ways to access power and satisfaction in a society structured to subordinate and even degrade them.

Desert Patriarchy richly expands the literature on nontraditional religious movements as it enhances our understanding of how environment can shape society. It offers unique insights into women's status in patriarchal communities and provides a new way of looking at similar communities worldwide.

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Disquiet in the Land
Cultural Conflict in American Mennonite Communities
Kniss, Fred
Rutgers University Press, 1997

Mennonites have long referred to themselves as "The Quiet in the Land," but their actual historical experience has been marked by internal disquiet and contention over religious values and cultural practice. As Fred Kniss argues in his impressive study of Mennonite history, the story of this sectarian pacifist group is a story of conflict. How can we understand the ironic phenomenon of Mennonite conflict? How do ideas and symbols-both those of the American mainstream and those that are specifically Mennonite-influence the emergence and course of this conflict? What is the relationship betweenintra-Mennonite conflict and the changing historical context in which Mennonites are situated?

Through a rigorous analysis of a century of disputes over dress codes, congregational authority, and religious practice, Kniss offers the tools both to understand conflict within a specific religious group and to answer larger questions about culture, ideology, and social and historical change.


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Frontier Intimacies
Ayoreo Women and the Sexual Economy of the Paraguayan Chaco
By Paola Canova
University of Texas Press, 2020

Until the 1960s, the Ayoreo people of Paraguay's Chaco region had remained uncontacted by the world. But as development encroached on their territory, the Ayoreo began to experience rapid cultural change. Paola Canova looks at one aspect of this change in Frontier Intimacies: the sexual practices of Ayoreo women, specifically the curajodie, or single women who exchange sex for money or material goods with non-Ayoreo men, often Mennonite settlers.

Weaving personal anecdotes into her extensive research, Canova shows how the advancement of economic and missionary frontiers has reconfigured gender roles, sexual ethics, and notions of desire in the region. Ayoreo women, she shows, have reappropriated their sexual practices, approaching intimate liaisons on their own terms and seeing the involvement of money not as morally problematic but as constitutive of sexual encounters. By using their sexuality to construct an intimate frontier operating according to their own logics, Canova reveals, Ayoreo women expose the fractured workings of frontier capitalism in spaces of rapid transformation. Inviting broader examination of the ways in which contemporary frontier economies are constructed and experienced, Frontier Intimacies brings a captivating new perspective to the economic development of the Chaco region.


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Horse-and-Buggy Genius
Listening to Mennonites Contest the Modern World
Royden Loewen
University of Manitoba Press, 2016

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Makhno and Memory
Anarchist and Mennonite Narratives of Ukraine's Civil War, 1917–1921
Sean Patterson
University of Manitoba Press, 2020

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Making Believe
Questions About Mennonites and Art
Magdalene Redekop
University of Manitoba Press, 2020

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Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood
1525 to 1980
James Urry
University of Manitoba Press, 2006
Mennonites and their forebears are usually thought to be a people with little interest or involvement in politics. Mennonites, Politics, and Peoplehood reveals that since their early history, Mennonites have, in fact, been active participants in worldly politics. From western to eastern Europe and through different migrations to North America, James Urry’s meticulous research traces Mennonite links with kingdoms, empires, republics, and democratic nations in the context of peace, war, and revolution. He stresses a degree of Mennonite involvement in politics not previously discussed in literature, including Mennonite participation in constitutional reform and party politics, and shows the polarization of their political views from conservatism to liberalism and even revolutionary activities. Using a wide variety of sources, Mennonite, Politics, and Peoplehood combines an inter-disciplinary approach to reveal that Mennonites, far from being the “Quiet in the Land,” have deep roots in politics.

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Nurturing Doubt
From Mennonite Missionary to Anthropologist in the Argentine Chaco
Elmer S. Miller
University of Illinois Press, 1995
Unique in ethnography, Nurturing Doubt documents the transforming effects of field experiences on a young Mennonite who went to Argentina to work with the Toba, first as a missionary and later as an anthropologist. Elmer Miller insightfully probes the documents--diaries, field journals, and letters--of both his lives, revealing as he does the ways in which his perceptions of the Toba--and theirs of him--changed when his role changed. Deeply affected by an upbringing in which he had been taught that doubting was "sinful," Miller gradually found that he doubted not only the validity of the missionary mandate but also his ethnographic mandate and the whole practice of anthropology. His exploration of how his doubt was transformed from a negative activity into a positive philosophical attitude underscores the richness of his relationships with the Toba. In depicting the move from theological to anthropological discourse, Miller contributes to current debates over the form and purpose of ethnographic investigation and reporting.

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A Memoir of Mennonite Girlhood
Mary Alice Hostetter
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Plain tells the story of Mary Alice Hostetter’s journey to define an authentic self amid a rigid religious upbringing in a Mennonite farm family. Although endowed with a personality “prone toward questioning and challenging,” the young Mary Alice at first wants nothing more than to be a good girl, to do her share, and—alongside her eleven siblings—to work her family’s Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, farm. She feels fortunate to have been born into a religion where, as the familiar hymn states, she is “safe in the arms of Jesus.” As an adolescent, that keen desire for belonging becomes focused on her worldly peers, even though she knows that Mennonites consider themselves a people apart. Eventually she leaves behind the fields and fences of her youth, thinking she will finally be able to grow beyond the prohibitions of her church. Discovering and accepting her sexuality, she once again finds herself apart, on the outside of family, community, and societal norms.

This quietly powerful memoir of longing and acceptance casts a humanizing eye on a little-understood American religious tradition and a woman’s striving to grow within and beyond it.

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Rewriting the Break Event
Mennonites and Migration in Canadian Literature
Robert Zacharias
University of Manitoba Press, 2013

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Singing Mennonite
Low German Songs Among the Mennonites
Doreen Helen Klassen
University of Manitoba Press, 1989

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