Nis The Life And Words Of A ! Kung Woman

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Marjorie Shostak’s ethnography, Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, is a collection of memories and life events recounted by a !Kung woman named Nisa in the early 1970s, and translated to English by Shostak, and published along with Shostak’s own observations and research on !Kung society and culture. Shostak wished to study the !Kung women, and understand their lives and perspective on their culture and society. When her key cultural consultant, Nisa was growing up, the !Kung bushmen of Dobe area of Botswana were foragers who practiced hunting and gathering, a way of life that allows for plentiful leisure time, peace, and relatively equal treatment of people within the society. Women in !Kung society enjoyed some the benefits of this …show more content…
Unlike in some developing countries, there is no strong gender preference for male or female offspring in !Kung society. When Nisa’s mother gave birth to Nisa’s little brother, she told Nisa that she would kill him because she thought Nisa was too small and to young to be weaned. When Nisa ran back to the village to tell her aunt, her aunt said, “This Chuko, she’s certainly a bad one to be talking like that… No matter what it is — boy or girl — she should keep [the baby]” (Shostak 55). Even though Chuko’s proposed reason for infanticide was not gender-based, her sister’s attitude reflects that the !Kung valued both genders, and disapproved of gender-based infanticide. As female children grew up they learned to gather food, and as adults, they provided most of the subsistence for themselves and their families, gathering fifteen to thirty pounds of vegetables 2-3 times per week (Shostak 67). The knowledge of how to gather food gave !Kung women economic independence. It also gave them more value in society; the men did not always come back with meats after every hunt, so the !Kung often relied on the women’s contributions in order to nourish the people of their village. !Kung women often had arranged marriages when they were still in their early teenage years, but they did not have to stay in these marriages. A wife could run away or …show more content…
The Herero and Tswana tribes traded their foraging lifestyle for permanent villages with horticultural crops and domestic livestock. The livestock of the Tswana and Herero polluted the water with their manure, scared off the animals the !Kung previously hunted, and destroyed some of the vegetables the !Kung traditionally gathered. The !Kung were forced to change their lifestyle in order to adapt. Shostak notes that around this time, the !Kung who moved into or onto the fringes of these villages were treated as inferiors to the Tswana and Herero, and often worked as servants for little money, or took up begging. Because the Tswana and Herero tribes possessed permanent property and material wealth, their male leaders had power over

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