This is an explanation for passage 2 of LSAT preptest 67, the October 2012 LSAT. This passage is about Marjorie Shostak’s book: Nisa: The Life and Words of a ~Kung Woman. Shostak’s study is innovative in that it is both a personal study of Nisa, and a larger study of the meaning of Nisa’s experience for women in general.
This section has paragraph summaries and an analysis of the passage, links to the explanations for the questions are below.
- Nisa tells three stories about the !Kung. It goes against the usual anonymous style of ethnography, by telling a woman’s story and involving the ethnographer in the story.
- Nisa shows the complexity of living in a ‘simple’ society. Western views of ‘simple’ societies are often inaccurate.
- Nisa uses the perspective of a !Kung woman to address issues faced by all women.
- Nisa is a dialogue between the subject and the ethnographer.
This passage is a fairly neutral description of Shostak’s book Nisa. The main point seems to be that the book is different from traditional ethnography.
It is clear that the author of the passage approves of Nisa. Lines 41-43 show that most ethnographic literature does not deal appropriately with women’s stories. Lines 25-34 show that Nisa gives an accurate view of the difficulties of !Kung society. Small adjectives are extremely important on LSAT reading comprehension. If the author says Nisa is accurate, you can take that to mean “I think Nisa is the most spectacular book I’ve read this year and should be a classic of ethnography”.
Nisa is a groundbreaking ethnographic work
Nisa is groundbreaking for several reasons. First, Nisa shows both an individual woman’s perspective, and a society’s perspective. Most ethnographic literature only views the society.
Second, the third paragraph makes clear that Nisa’s experience as a !Kung woman tells us about women in general. Most ethnography ignores women’s views on women (lines 41-43).
Finally, the fourth paragraph tells us that Shostak inserts her own story into Nisa. This runs counter to traditional ethnography, but it’s an important truth: both Shostak and Nisa are people. As Shostak learns about Nisa, she must inevitably become a part of Nisa’s life for a time. Nisa is the story of this collaboration.
The final paragraph also mentions that Shostak employs the convention of narrative. Narrative just means storytelling. Our lives are not stories with beginnings, middles and conclusions. Yet that’s how we write books.
Nisa both uses this convention, and breaks from it slightly. Lines 54-57 show that the story is indirectly told through dialogue.
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