The Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities have typically been associated with strict religious observance, a renunciation of worldly things, and an obedience of women to men. Women’s relationship to media in these communities, however, betrays a more nuanced picture of the boundaries at play and women’s roles in negotiating them.
Strictly Observant presents a compelling ethnographic study of the complex dynamic between women in both the Pennsylvanian Old Order Amish and Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities and contemporary media technologies. These women regularly establish valuable social, cultural, and religious capital through the countless decisions for use and nonuse of media that they make in their daily lives, and in ways that challenge the gender hierarchies of each community. By exhibiting a deep awareness of how media can be managed to increase their social and religious reputations, these women prompt us to reconsider our outmoded understanding of the Amish and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, the role that women play in these communities as agents of change, and our own relationship to media today.
List of Tables
Introduction: The Miracle, Case Studies, and Methods
1 Under the Eyes of God: One Day in the Life of an Old Order Amish Woman
2 From the Holy House and Community to the Secular Workplace and Back: One Day in the Life of an Ultra-Orthodox Woman
3 “Only Occasionally, When I Happen to Be around One”: Self-Justifications of Media Consumption as Boundary Management
4 “My Husband Just Told Me . . .”: The Women’s Relationships with News
5 “Satan’s Tool to Draw Our Focus away from God”: The Women’s Perceptions about Media Technologies and Content
6 “We’d Rather Talk about Babies”: Sharing Behaviors among Amish and Ultra-Orthodox Women
7 “I Made It as a Boundary for Myself”: Concluding Discussion on the Women’s Boundary Management
Appendix: The Specific Data and Statistics on the Amish and Ultra-Orthodox Women’s Media Consumption
RIVKA NERIYA-BEN SHAHAR is a senior lecturer at Sapir Academic College in Sderot, Israel, where she teaches communications, religion, and gender.