Primary Source

Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak

The cover of Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak, featuring a headshot of a !Kung woman


Made up of a series of analyses and personal interviews conducted by Marjorie Shostak, Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman is an anthropological work about women of the !Kung tribe of the Kalahari desert in southern Africa told through the perspective of one individual, Nisa. Though not an anthropologist by training, Shostak learned the !Kung language to hear Nisa's vivid stories of village life, domestic responsibilities, and family obligations. Though Shostak was drawn to Nisa for her storytelling abilities, Shostak holds that Nisa is nonetheless indicative of all !Kung women. As the bulk of the work is made up of transcribed interviews, Shostak tells Nisa's stories in her own words, though through English translation. In Nisa, Shostak admits that her desire to study !Kung women was due to her own feminist leanings, and that she was fascinated by !Kung life because of its economy where women's labor is more important and its society were women freely discuss sex and sexuality. As such, Nisa has been characterized not only as a work of anthropology, but of feminist literature as well.

This source is part of the Analyzing Personal Accounts methods module.


Marjorie Shostak. Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

How to Cite This Source

"Nisa, The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak," in World History Commons, [accessed May 25, 2023]