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Societies, Networks, and Transitions

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Companionship is highly valued among the !Kung people. Because of their semi-nomadic nature and low population, their villages are small clusters of grass huts, offering little privacy and exposing children to sexual activity from an early age. They often experiment with sexual acts, but consider it nothing more serious as a child’s game until marriage, which is an important milestone to maturity. During Nisa’s adolescence, she was married to a man named Tashay. She hated and feared her new husband and refused sexual intercourse with him, running away multiple times. Her reaction to marriage not uncommon in young !Kung girls. This behavior is tolerated since they are still economically considered children until their first pregnancy.

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Eventually, Nisa accepted Tashay and grew to love him over time. Polygamy also exists within !Kung society. The practice is regarded as unwise due to the difficulty of treating both wives with equal affection. Animosity between women forced together often escalates to violence, such as Nisa’s animosity towards Tikiny, another young woman Tashay married, led to her pulling a knife on her husband’s co-wife and demanding that she return to her village. (Shostak: 175)

During our discussion, the class reached the consensus that Nisa was a stronger work than Margreat Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa due to Shostak inserting herself into the text, giving it a personableness not presented by Mead. Something I appreciated was Shostak acknowledging her own biases, such as her inability to identify with the !Kung men and that the interviews she conducted should not be regarded as fact. Another aspect of the text I enjoyed was the having both and anthropological view of the !Kung’s cultural practices and Nisa’s narrative of what is was like to actually experience them, helping me understand these foreign customs better.

The class also discussed the differences between male and female roles. Hunting, for example, is not purely male dominated since women often discover animal tracks in the bush in addition to gathering smaller sources of meat. !Kung women are only discouraged from hunting, not forbidden from doing so, exemplified by the !Kung woman who took her lazy husbands role of hunter in order to satisfy her desire for meat. Her hunting prowess was acknowledged, but the tribe admittedly considered her “eccentric and was in no way seen as a model for other women to emulate” (Shostak: 244). Her actions were considered odd but she received no punishment for behaving outside the established norms. This attitude is what I believe separates the !Kung from the modern culture of 1970s America; they do not view being female as wrong. References: Shostak, Marjorie. Nisa: the life and words of a!kung woman. Routledge, 2015.

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Societies, Networks, and Transitions. (2018, September 04). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/societies-networks-and-transitions/
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