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Lifeway is a term used in the disciplines of anthropology, sociology and archeology, particularly in North America.[1]




From the mid 19th century, the word was used with the meaning 'way through life' or 'way of life'.[1] It appears, for example, in literary contexts in the stories of Clara Lee[2] and Rose Porter,[3] in the verse of Frank L. Stanton,[4] and in editor and politician Edgar Howard's opinion pieces on other political figures.[5][6]

Anthropology and archeologyEdit

Dr Arthur C. Parker, American archaeologist of Seneca and Scots-English descent, was one of the earliest to use the term in reference to Native American ways of life, saying in an article published by the Binghamton Press in 1930, "Our key to the future is locked in the life-ways of our Indian predecessors".[7] Use of the term in anthropology was established with the publication of Morris Edward Opler's 1941 study An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians.[8]
Recent explanations of the term in the field of Native American and other Indigenous studies "suggest the close interaction of worldview and economy in small-scale societies".[9] The word 'lifeway' "emphasizes the road of life as indigenous people see it. Such a perspective can be associated with the concept "worldview," a distinct way of thinking about the cosmos and of evaluating life's actions in terms of those views",[10] and focuses on "an interpretive effort to express indigenous understandings of human-earth relations as an interactive and pervasive context that outsiders might label religion."[9]


The field of sociology also adopted the word 'lifeway', with one sociologist explaining that "the definition of status differences and the conceptualization of lifeway patterns ... reflect the central significant of economic referents;" "each lifeway pattern would appear .. as a linked values system [which] ... would exhibit customs, sanctions, habits, and meanings".[11] Urban as well as rural lifeways could be analysed and described (for example, a 1950 thesis on A Sociological Analysis of the Chicago Skid Row Lifeway).[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "lifeway, n.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. December 2018. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  2. ^ Lee, Clara J. (24 April 1856). "Delia Arnold - A Heart History". Buffalo Evening Post. Buffalo, New York. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  3. ^ Porter, Rose (21 May 1875). "Grace Hinsdale's Lily". The Aegis & Intelligencer. Bel Air, Maryland. p. 1. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  4. ^ Stanton, Frank L. (10 April 1921). "Songs of Frank L. Stanton - On the Life-Way". Oakland Tribune - The Sunday Feature. Oakland, California. p. 6. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  5. ^ Howard, Edgar (6 February 1936). "Senator Borah Tells why". The Columbus Telegram. Columbus, Nebraska. p. 4. Retrieved 17 January 2019. The entire life-way of Borah has been the way of a lone wolf in politics.
  6. ^ Howard, Edgar (29 November 1937). "A Remarkable Woman". The Columbus Telegram. Columbus, Nebraska. p. 2. Retrieved 17 January 2019. The very beauty of her life-way has lifted her to high place in the admiration of the American people.
  7. ^ Parker, Dr. Arthur C. (27 September 1930). "Americans Becoming Indians Faster Than They Realize, Dr. Parker Says; Telling Why". Binghamton Press. Binghamton, New York. p. 13. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  8. ^ Benedict, Ruth (October – December 1942). "Reviewed Work: An Apache Life-Way: The Economic, Social, and Religious Institutions of the Chiricahua Indians by Morris E. Opler". American Anthropologist. New Series. 44 (4, Part 1): 692–693. doi:10.1525/aa.1942.44.4.02a00100. JSTOR 663315.
  9. ^ a b Grim, John A. (2006). "Indigenous Traditions - Religion and Ecology". In Gottlieb, Roger S. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology. Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 286–306. ISBN 9780195178722. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  10. ^ Grim, John A. (2004). "Native American Religions, Bioethics in" (Gale Virtual Reference Library). In Post, Stephen G. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Bioethics, Vol. 4 (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan Reference USA. p. 1881.
  11. ^ Foreman, Paul B. (August 1948). "Negro Lifeways in the Rural South: A Typological Approach to Social Differentiation". American Sociological Review. 13 (4): 409–418. doi:10.2307/2087235. JSTOR 2087235.
  12. ^ Wallace, Samuel E. (Summer 1968). "The Road to Skid Row". Social Problems. 16 (1): 92–105. doi:10.2307/799529. JSTOR 799529. See: Howard George Bain, A Sociological Analysis of the Chicago Skid Row Lifeway, Chicago: unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Chicago, 1950.