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The Book Nisa - the Life and Words of a Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak

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This paper I am going to discuss the book Nisa The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, by Marjorie Shostak. In doing this I will describe the culture of the !Kung people, a small hunter-gatherer tribe in Africa. Then I will go on with telling about their sociocultural systems that I have read about in this book. To rap things up I will tell my prediction where the !Kung population is headed into the future. I will use explanations from the book to help me describe my prediction. !Kung culture is a very simple culture. The norms in this society are hard to define; norms are shared rules that define how people are supposed to behave under certain circumstances. Take marriage for example In the book Nisa explains how a women can marry more than once in her lifetime, a !Kung girl is actually married several times before she stays with one man. These appeared to me as trial marriages, the women are too young to want the marriage and usually are the ones to end it. Even after long marriage involving children things such as death and divorce/ separation occur and a woman finds a new husband. So as you can see the norms in the !Kung culture are much different than that of our own norms. Even when marriage is involved the idea of having lovers was not shunned. Although some women do not engage in this act, it is a very common thing among the !Kung. The norm here is to have a lover to keep that young playful and loving attraction alive with someone, even after things have began to settle with your husband. Nisa explains, �Even my mother had lovers. I�d be with her when she met them. But my father, if he had them, I didn�t know�� She recalls many situations like this, as do most !Kung children. �I remember, when I was still small, seeing my mother with one man. He met her, took her, and made love to her. I sat nearby and waited. When she came back carrying firewood, I thought, �I am going to tell!� Then I thought, �Should I tell Daddy or shouldn�t I?� But when we arrived back at the village, I didn�t say anything. I thought if I told, my father would kill my mother.� Most children fear their father�s beatings, therefore, will not tell on their mothers. Values, standards by which a society defines what is desirable and undesirable, in !Kung society mainly involve things dealing with sex. The sex they value is not the same sex that our society views it. It is not about looks or big breasts or broad shoulders. They place no value on looks, although Nisa does comment on good-looking people, there is no comments made directly towards ugly people. They do not emphasize on people�s bad looks; therefore, they do not have to feel self conscious of their looks. When derogatory comments are made it�s about peoples genitals. Once when she was too young to have sex she would decline sex play by saying, �You, Tuma, you�ve got an enormous penis! I don�t want to be with someone like that!� He said, � We�re going to play and have sex with Big-Vagina over there.� He meant me.� They used this as a way of insulting each other. When it comes to sex having big genitals is a bad thing, therefore, the values in the society are much different from our own. The socialization/ enculturation process of a new !Kung child starts at day one. Enculturation is the process of social interaction through which people learn their culture. When the mother is feeling well enough after the birth, which is usually a few days or as soon as the milk comes in, the baby will go gathering with the mother. That there involves a large part of the culture of everyday life. Although not much is expected of the !Kung children their curiosity makes up for it. Children are willing and eager to learn to hunt and gather, as do the adults. Young males are able to learn about hunting by following their fathers on a hunt. They carefully watch their fathers hunt and learn from them the skills to make a good kill, although some experience is necessary. So from day one the child is taught the norms, values, and beliefs of the society. Social structure, the sum of the patterns of relationships within a society, as presented in Nisa shows that much goes into a society. The only recognized status, a recognized position that a person occupies within a society, is that men actually go out and hunt for food. Both women and men gather food, but the men actually organize hunts. All !Kung people are equal and even when it comes to the religious healers men and women are equal, although most healers are men. Even down to raising children both sexes are equally involved. This keeps the society equal, there is no headman to make a ruling, and everyone has an opportunity to have the same chances. In families the mother and father have equal roles. They both provide food and they both support their children. Their decisions about their children are



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