Essay Example - Marjorie Shostak's Approach to Culture

Published: 2023-08-02
Essay Example - Marjorie Shostak's Approach to Culture
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Sexes Community
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1525 words
13 min read

The book “The Life and Words of a! Kung Woman” is about the story of Nisa who is a member of the tribe of the Kung tribe in southern Africa, the books reflect various aspects of the Kung tribe culture and ho Nisa can break through the immense barriers of language and culture. The paper reflects on the culture of the Kung tribe in relation to other cultures around the world and how the world has evolved influencing the culture of the people. The book gives a female perspective of the culture and the changes that begin to shape when people begin to interact with people from other communities with different cultures.

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Shostak's objective was to observe women in an unfamiliar culture and determine what binds them together. She also aimed at examining the Kung women and their contribution to the 1960 women's movement (Shostak, 2000). She wanted to know how it felt to be a woman in the culture that was so distinct from her own. She wanted to know if there were universal factors that she could identify with. She took her first trip during a period when marriage and traditional values in her culture were highly questioned. During this period, there was a Women's movement whose focus was on the reexamination of the roles traditionally assumed by the Western women. There were several issues raised by the women’s movement and which she thought the Kung women might help in addressing.

Unlike Shostak’s culture, Kung culture was not disrupted continuously by political and social groups presenting different information about how women are (Shostak, 2000). Although the cultural change was experienced in Kung, it was recent and therefore did not significantly impact their value system. Kung women's current way of life, therefore, is a true reflection of how they had been living for many generations. Understanding their traditional roles, therefore, was like studying their contemporary way of life as there was no meaningful change.

The status and influence of women in the society are high as they are involved in family as well as band decisions (Shostak, 2000). They are, for example, involved in deciding where to live as well as who will marry their children. Additionally, some women own water holes and foraging areas and also are included in the leadership of a band. Although women are almost equal to men, culture defines them differently and perceives them as less powerful.

Men hunted for meat, which the family and the society values because of the unpredictability of its source (Shostak, 2000). When the men bring the hunted meat, the whole society gets excited and engages in dancing. Men leave early in the morning either alone or in pairs, and they hunt throughout the day and sometimes overnight. In every four hunts, an experienced hunter will succeed in at least one hunt. This, therefore, means that not all times, the men bring hunted meat on the sunset. Men need spears, arrows, and arrows when going to hunt. They use a lethal poison from beetle larvae to apply on the arrow, and when an animal is struck with a poisoned arrow, it dies within a single day.

Kung culture invests in a strong bond between the children and parents as well between the spouses. Husbands and wives accompany each other when going on trips or even hunting (Shostak, 2000). They also sleep beside each other, share food, and engage in activities such as cooking together. The basic living unit comprises a husband, wife, and children. There may also be additional people from the Spouse's extended family. Adults are also close to their parents, which in contemporary society is uncommon as adults focus on their basic living unit and are rarely involved in their parent’s lives. Shostak’s culture is different from the Kung culture as the closeness between the adults, and their parents are seen as unusual. In Kung culture, there is nothing wrong with the adults expressing their feelings for their parents.

Young girls’ transition to adulthood in the Kung culture is characterized by self-confidence and pride (Shostak, 2000). The village is small, so as the young girls grow, they have a limited number of peers to compare themselves with. Each girl is given attention as she grows, and the village men observe and make remarks about her body. Since the women do not cover their breasts, the men have unlimited opportunities of looking at their bodies and making jokes about marrying them or even eloping with them. A man may also propose to a young girl to become his second wife. This cultural aspect is distinct from Shostak’s, where young girls cover their breasts, and men's jokes about the appearance of a young girl are unaccepted.

Kung women perceive and describe menopause and menstruation differently without giving it great importance (Shostak, 2000). They feel that their body is great since there is no pain or any noticeable symptom. Their perception of menopause is completely different from that of the Americans. When it comes to giving birth, the woman prefers to give birth alone in the absence of anyone to avoid discussing the physical reactions they experience. In American culture, this is distinct as women have no problem with giving birth in someone's presence.

Children usually get the culture of the environment and the people that bring up the child because of the constant contact with the culture of the people that brings up the child (Shostak, 2000). The! Kung children embraced the culture of their mothers who are keen to bring the child in the manner that the culture of the community demands the child be brought up in a manner that the child will be able to interact with other children and will have respect for the culture of the community. The culture of the! The Kung community is noticeable to foreigners when they visit the community because there are things that are common among all the people.

The culture of the Kung people is also shown by the different rituals that are celebrated in the community where there are several rites of passage that people go through to meet the culture of the community (Shostak, 2000). The cultures include celebrating the rite of passage, such as birth, where the community comes together to celebrate the birth of new ones into the community. The rites are celebrated by the killing of animals, depending on the gender of the child to mark the milestone of the child beginning their life in the community. The ritual symbolizes the strength of the child since the community lives on hunting and gathering; hence I symbolize the different roles the child will play in his or her family.

The other rite of passage in the Kung community includes initiation, where the children move from childhood into adulthood. The rite of passage is also celebrated by all members of the community, and I different between females and males (Shostak, 2000). The roles also change when one becomes an adult, including being given the right to marry and form marriages. The age of the people determines the role one plays in the community. The last rite for a person from the Kung community is death, and the community also celebrates the lives of the people who have died. The community works as a team as respect to the person who has died.

People live through hunting and gathering as the primary source of livelihood; the boys are responsible for hunting while the women are responsible for home chores such as taking care of other younger children in the family (Shostak, 2000). The boys learn how to hunt from older people of the community while the girls learn family chores from their mothers and other women in the community. Every person has a role to play in making the community better for all people. There are strict laws to be followed by all members of the community to ensure there is order.

The culture of the! The Kung community makes the people live their lives without fear, where fear is seen to be an embarrassment by other members of the same age group. Age mates do not expect someone to fear to bear in mind that the work of hunting and gathering requires one to be courageous during the difficulties experienced during hunting (Shostak, 2000). The people are trained to be courageous while young to ensure they are able to face dangerous animals and win the challenges. Boys are able to kill dangerous animals such as lions before they turn the age of fifteen years.

In conclusion, Marjorie Shostak’s approach to culture is different from that of! Kung people, she faces culture shock in the first days in the community but later embraces the culture of the people of the! Kung people. The Kung community has strong cultural practices that all the people embrace, and the culture helps in uniting the people. However, the culture is being influenced by external factors such as colonization, where foreigners brought a new culture to the people.


Shostak, M. (2000). Nisa: The life and words of a! Kung woman. Harvard University Press. Retrieved from,+Marjorie.+Nisa+:+The+Life+and+Words+of+a+!Kung+Woman,+Harvard+University+Press,&ots=IYDAtl3YEu&sig=6KbHvG6KTzA1GAJRFox8kEMzOtA

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