Nisa: the Life and Words of a !Kung Women Essay

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Introduction

Foraging for wild plants and hunting wild animals is the most ancient of human subsistence patterns. Prior to 10,000 years ago, all people lived in this way. Hunting and gathering continues to be the subsistence pattern of some societies around the world including the !Kung. The !Kung population is located in the Kalahari Desert, in isolated parts of Botswana, Angola, and Namibia. The !Kung live in a harsh environment with temperatures during the winter frequently below freezing, but during the summer well above 100F. The !Kung, like most hunter-gatherer societies, have a division of labor based mainly on gender and age.

(Body) Gender in the Division of Labor For the most part in the !Kung society the men do the
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Nevertheless, men spend only a small fraction of the time that women do in the company of children, especially infants. The women are responsible for the less pleasant tasks of child care, such as toileting, cleaning and bathing, and nose wiping. However most parents prefer to leave all but the youngest children in the village while they gather: food collection is more efficient that way, and distances traveled can be greater. Also, most children want to stay at home with the other children: playing with friends is highly preferable to the stressful travel and long hours often involved in gathering.

Age There is a large difference in age between boys and girls in terms of their development into adults and their roles in subsistence. !Kung children have no schools, nor are they expected to contribute to subsistence, to care for younger children, or to help out much around the village, except for occasionally collecting water. Because little formal teaching is done, observation and practice are the basis of all learning. It is this way that many of the skills are learned that will make them productive adults. A man's hunting skills and inclinations are fostered early in childhood, often beginning when he is only a toddler. Toy bows and arrows are given to small children at a young age. Stationary
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