What roles do men play in the family life of the Alto? What economic and social realities condition these roles?Discuss

The instructions for all four essays are the same, but for your convenience will be repeated with each assignment.

Your essay must answer all three questions. You can do this in three separate sections or in one integrated essay, whichever seems easier to you (usually three separate sections are easier). Though you need not use actual quotations, you will need to use specific examples from Nisa, either from Shostak’s introductions to each chapter, or from the chapters themselves. In citing these examples, please refer to the appropriate page numbers in parentheses. No more formal or complete method of citation is necessary.

Do not exceed five, typed, double-spaced (or whatever you computer thinks is like double spaced) pages in writing this essay, but it seems unlikely that you could do a reasonable job in fewer than three pages. Part of your success will depend upon your being able to pack a lot of content into a small space. THEREFORE, do not waste a lot of time, energy, and space on trivial generalizations, restatements of the question, or pious summary banalities. Most of all, BE SPECIFIC and PROVIDE EXAMPLES to support your general statements. A good paper has neither data without interpretation nor general statements without specific examples.

One of the easiest ways to lose points in an essay exam is to lose sight of the question one is supposed to answer. So after you have written your answer to each part of the question, GO BACK TO THE QUESTION ITSELF, and make sure you you have actually answered it.

You will not be graded specifically on your writing, but you do need to pay attention to spelling, punctuation, and organization. Use your spell-check and/or ask a friend to proof-read what you have written. Gross incoherence will certainly result in a lowered grade.

Failure to make a copy of your paper, just in case, is like driving without insurance.

I know all this sounds very punitive; I’m afraid that’s a limitation of the medium. Actually, writing this paper ought to be rewarding. It should help you sort out your understanding of gender issues in Kung life. By the time you have finished writing you ought to know a lot more than you did when you began.

A lot of you are returning students. DON’T FREAK OUT. I returned to graduate school (in anthropology) twelve years after I (just barely) got my BA in philosophy. I had been a terrible student as an undergraduate, and I was older than most of my fellow students and some of my professors as a graduate student. But I found that the energy, determination, and wisdom of age (coupled with the experience of having made EVERY possible error during my first trip through a university) stood me in good stead. After a few weeks of fear (well, terror), I discovered that I COULD do what I had to. And so can you.

Make copies of all work submitted to guard against loss of originals in transit. Keep all copies and graded/returned work until a grade has been posted for the course.


Impoverished women in Bom Jesus say that an ideal family has three children, yet most poor women undergo somewhere between nine and twelve pregnancies to rear four to six living children. A question that comes to our minds, as to Nancy Scheper-Hughes’s mind, is—why do these women have so many children? Why, indeed?

Describe the “maternal philosophy” of the women of Bom Jesus, and the reasons this philosophy has developed. Pay specific attention to the issue of infant death and mothers’ complicity in it, and don’t forget infant feeding.

When Scheper-Hughes first published accounts from Bom Jesus of maternal complicity in infant death, she met with great resistance. Many readers, especially convinced feminists, were outraged, and argued that Scheper-Hughes had betrayed and misrepresented the mothers of the Alto. Even these destitute women, their argument went, have a “natural maternal instinct.” What does Scheper-Hughes have to say on this issue. and what kinds of arguments does she use to bolster her position? What roles do men play in the family life of the Alto? What economic and social realities condition these roles?

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