NISA: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman

Paper Topic

Marjorie Shostak’s ethnography, Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman, is guided by the narrative of the stories of Nisa’s life. About her stories, Nisa tells Shostak, “I’ll tell you another one now. I’ll break open the story and tell you what is there. Then, like the others that have fallen out onto the sand, I will finish with it, and the wind will take it away.” (36)

In this course, we learn about the stories of many people of many different cultures. At first glance, some of their stories may seem completely different from the events of our own lives. Upon closer examination, we can find many themes that run through the lives of the !Kung also run through our own.

Another major theme of our course is cultural adaptation. From your new anthropologist’s perspective, you should be able to examine a cultural practice in an objective way. For example, does the !Kung practice of sharing meat hurt or enhance their survival as a group? Does it support their health or well-being? A practice can be evaluated in this way even if it is not part of our own cultural norms.


Compare and contrast the aspects of !Kung life with your own. Choose at least three aspects to discuss. These may be rites of passage (such as birth, marriage, divorce, death) or other aspects of !Kung life (choosing a partner, healing the sick, securing food for consumption), etc.

For each aspect, first describe the practice in !Kung life. (You may rely solely on the Shostak text for this section, or use one of the required outside scholarly sources.)

Second, compare and/or contrast it with the practice in your own culture. Note the similarities or differences. (You may bring in outside scholarly sources in this section.)

Third, evaluate the practice based on its adaptability for the !Kung. Do you think the way the !Kung behave in this situation is adaptive for their health and well-being (even if it is unlike the way we behave in this situation)? Does it aid their success as a group? Give your opinion (analysis) based on evidence from the text or from scholarly sources.


Your paper must be 4-5 pages long, double-spaced with 0.8” to 1.0” margins with 10 or 12 point traditional font. The minimum length is 4 full pages. Please provide a References page at the end of the document using APA formatting.

Two scholarly sources are required for this assignment beyond the Shostak text. Scholarly sources come from academic journals or books from a university press. You will need to use the library’s databases (such as ProQuest) or physically check out books from the library to meet this requirement. Please see the TIPS FOR FINDING SCHOLARLY SOURCES handout in the Assignments section of the course.

Please use citations (or quotes) to support your arguments. To cite passages from a text, put quotation marks around a passage followed immediately by the author’s last name and page number in parentheses. Quotes should be brief, under four lines.

For example:

“My heart was so happy I moved around like a little dog, wagging my tail and running around. Really! I was so happy, I shouted out what I saw: ‘The rainy season has come today! Yea! Yea!'”(Shostak: 89)

If you must use a longer quote than four lines, eliminate the quotation marks, single space, and indent the entire quote several tabs from the left margin.

Be sure to explain why you are using a particular quote. A quote by itself does not prove a point. It only provides evidence for your argument. You must make an argument preceding or following the quote.

Using other people’s words constitutes plagiarism. Provide quotes and a reference including the author’s name, title and page number for more than three words in a row that are not your own. Please use APA formatting to provide a reference for the Nisa text and any other texts that you may have used at the end of the document.

Please spell-check your paper (check for typos, mistakes, etc.), organize it into indented paragraphs, and write in a clear and simple style.


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