On settler placemaking: Devon Ezra Miller, Changing Landscapes: Ambiguity, Imaginations, and Amish Settlers in Northern Indiana, 1825-1850, PhD Dissertation, Michigan State University, 2017


Abstract: Over the past several decades, anthropologists and historians have recognized the diversity and fluidity of the cultural interactions in the Great Lakes region during colonization and settlement. These studies have focused either on the social processes of Indigenization, assimilation, or acculturation on the part of Indigenous communities, or the incorporation of Indigenous political alliances into European colonization. However, little scholarly attention has been given to a critical examination of the social, economic, and political processes which led settler communities such as Anabaptists to appropriate, re-appropriate, or generate new meanings of the Indigenous places they settled. The Amish community of LaGrange and Elkhart counties, Indiana, provides an excellent case study for examining the human agency involved in varying epistemologies and ideologies producing and reproducing diversity within the Great Lakes region during settlement.

Using a framework which draws from landscape, social memory, and diasporic studies, this dissertation examines the formation of the Anabaptist community located in northern Indiana. By exploring the competing histories found in the relevant archives and the built landscape, I consider the discursive processes of place-making which shaped this Anabaptist community. Since they shared pacifist ideologies and a collective memory involving displacement and oppression, how did Anabaptists understand and interact with the people and places where they settled? How did Anabaptists incorporate the changes they encountered into previous understandings of how the world should be? How do competing histories provide a fuller understanding of the formation of Anabaptist communities? How did the Anabaptist placemaking practices contribute to transforming the environment from an Indigenous landscape to a landscape dominated by European technology and agriculture?

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