Literature Study GuidesNisa The Life And Words Of A Kung Woman

Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman | Study Guide

Marjorie Shostak

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Marjorie Shostak

Years Published





Biography, Women's Studies

At a Glance

Marjorie Shostak wrote Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman as an extension of her work in Botswana (1969–71), where she recorded interviews that explored the lives of tribal women. Extensively researched, the book brings the !Kung culture to life through observations and facts, personal anecdotes, and vivid descriptions, and it is considered a classic in the field of anthropology. Nisa stands out from other anthropological works since it focuses on a single individual rather than a group as a whole. This narrative choice serves to personalize the tale and draw the reader into the world Nisa inhabits. However, this same aspect of the work has also received criticism for its focus on one individual as this point of view fails to provide context for understanding the broader scope of !Kung society. Shostak also had a strong interest in the newly developing women's movement in the West, which is evident in her choice of interviewees, topics, and the statistical research she provides on the status of women among the !Kung as they were between 1969 and 1971. Her exploration of the physical, spiritual, and emotional life of !Kung women has made Nisa an important text in feminist literature, as well.

Perspective and Narrator

Nisa's story is recorded in first person as spoken during interviews with the author. Marjorie Shostak's introductions to each section use both the first person—to express her own experiences and thoughts—and an objective third-person point of view—to relate facts about the !Kung and other topics.

About the Title

Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman offers the life story of an African tribal woman from early childhood through old age, as told in her own words. Her story was recorded, edited, and contextualized by ethnographer and author Marjorie Shostak.


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