Worlds of Difference

Projects

Exploring the responses of societies with strong local traditions to the pressures and opportunities of a globalizing world. Forty features from 27 countries, plus six hour-long specials and a 60-page website.

SORT: Newest Oldest Name A-Z Name Z-A
  • The Street of the Cauldron Makers

    The Street of the Cauldron Makers

    Modern Turkey emerged in the 1920s as a secular, westernized nation where the rule was always to look forward, never back. But novelist Elif Shafak says buried memories have a way of rising to the surface. She takes us on a tour of an Istanbul street, where battles over identity, modernity, ethnicity, and minority rights have played out in miniature.

  • Fighting the Water

    Fighting the Water

    On the tangled braids of earth and marsh that form the Mississippi Delta, the Houma Indians have lived for centuries, isolated by water. But now the land is dissolving beneath their feet, and many Houma fear that their unique culture will dissolve along with it.

  • Relearning the Peace

    Relearning the Peace

    Culturally Burundi’s Hutus and Tutsis practice the same religion and speak the same language. Intermarriage is common. But decades of violence have made even the most imaginary differences tragically real. In 2005, voters in Burundi approved a constitution that requires the two groups to share power. For the country’s new leaders, that means unlearning bad habits. Marianne McCune attends a retreat for the newly integrated national police.

  • Seeking the Middle Way

    Seeking the Middle Way

    For decades, the goal of the tiny Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has been neither to keep pace with the rest of the world nor to hide from it, but rather to increase what the king calls “Gross National Happiness.”

  • Café Rebeldía

    Café Rebeldía

    The Mutvitz cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, sells a portion of its coffee on the growing global “solidarity market.” The farmers, who are part of the Zapatista rebel movement, see the coffee business as a way not just to move forward economically, but to strengthen their Mayan heritage.

  • A Map of the Sea

    A Map of the Sea

    For centuries, the Newfoundland fishery was hailed as the greatest in the world. Then, in 1992, the cod disappeared. Now the islanders must find a way to keep that culture from going the way of the cod. An award-winning meditation on memory, fishing, music, and dance.

  • Saints and Indians

    Saints and Indians

    Between 1954 and 2000, tens of thousands of Native American children went to live with Mormon families during the school year. For some, it was a chance to overcome the stresses of reservation life. For others, it was a repudiation of their identity. For everyone, it was a life-changing experience.

  • Cotopaxi Pilgrimage

    Cotopaxi Pilgrimage

    For the Tigua Indians of Ecuador, the spectacular 19,000-foot Cotopaxi volcano is both a sheltering spirit and a source of artistic inspiration. But the Tigua stopped visiting their sacred mountain when the government declared it a national park and began charging admission. Recently two Tigua painters led an improvised pilgrimage to the volcano’s glacier.

  • Kinvara: A Spirit of Place

    Kinvara: A Spirit of Place

    For much of the 20th century, the town of Kinvara, on Ireland’s west coast, was rich in charm but poor in just about everything else. Then the Celtic Tiger awoke. Today, Kinvara is crawling with developers and speculators. The boom has forced the townsfolk to ask tough questions about where they want their community to go.

  • The Reindeer People

    The Reindeer People

    About 40 percent of all Mongolians are nomads, but officials there say they want most of them to settle down. With their reindeer herds dwindling and government support disappearing, the Tsachin people have to decide whether to abandon their ancient way of life.

  • The Face of the Shaman

    The Face of the Shaman

    For thousands of years, the Mongolian shaman has been the intermediary between the human and spirit worlds. Shamanism was suppressed for 70 years under communism. Now it’s back in the open, competing for customers in a market that’s crowded with alternatives.

  • The Zapotec Bible

    The Zapotec Bible

    In the indigenous Mexican village of Yaganiza, Rebecca Long is slowly translating the New Testament into the local language. But her presence, like the group she works with, has not been without controversy. A complex story about language, religion, tradition, and trust.

  • Competing for Souls

    Competing for Souls

    Korea’s transformation into an industrial powerhouse has been accompanied by an equally dramatic spiritual shift. With Christians now dominant in political and economic life, Buddhists wonder whether they have a role to play in the country’s future.

  • Occitan Rock

    Occitan Rock

    Since Napoleon declared it the official language of the republic, French has been at the core of national identity. Now some southerners are challenging that notion, using a blend of reggae, Brazilian rhythms, and the musical forms of the medieval troubadors.

  • The Free Monks

    The Free Monks

    In Greece, the Orthodox Church has always presented itself as the guardian of national identity. But some think it’s not doing enough to protect the country from western domination. We meet a rock band made up of black-robed monks whose music rails against globalization and the “New World Order.”

  • Roma Love Story

    Roma Love Story

    In May 2004, eight Eastern European countries joined the European Union, whose laws forbid child marriage. Some Roma see this as a death sentence for their culture. But not Gyula and Marika Vámosi of Pecs, Hungary.

  • Return of the Hellenes

    Return of the Hellenes

    More than 95% of all Greeks are Orthodox. But in the last few years there’s been a revival of interest in the pre-Christian past. For some, that means taking another look at ancient Greek ideals like reason and democratic debate. For others, it means worshiping the ancient gods. All say their eyes are on the future. Jon Miller attends their convergence on Mount Olympus.

  • Resurrecting the Zápara

    Resurrecting the Zápara

    The Zápara once ranged far across the western Amazon. By the 1970s, anthropologists concluded that their culture was extinct. But a handful of native speakers survived. Now they’re trying to resuscitate their language and culture. But a new danger looms.

  • Tell Me Wai

    Tell Me Wai

    Musicians Mina Ripia and Maaka McGregor learned to speak Maori in college, after the New Zealand government made it an official national language. Now they’re part of a new generation of Maoris who have decided to move their culture forward rather than leave it behind.

  • Connecting the Hebrides, Part 2

    Connecting the Hebrides, Part 2

    Scotland’s Outer Hebrides are home to some of the purest Gaelic culture on earth – but they’re a tough place to make a living. That may be changing. In the second part of a two-part series, Vera Frankl looks at how the Internet is transforming the economy and helping keep the culture alive.

  • Connecting the Hebrides, Part 1

    Connecting the Hebrides, Part 1

    In the first part of a two-part series about change in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, Vera Frankl visits “crofters” (small-scale farmers) who are finally taking control of their land after centuries of working for absentee landlords.

  • Ladino Transformation

    Ladino Transformation

    Bulgaria’s Jews are survivors, but the language they have spoken for centuries is in trouble. Sandy Tolan visits with some of Bulgaria’s last Ladino speakers as they try to keep the tongue from going silent.

  • Basque Family Ties

    Basque Family Ties

    American filmmaker Victoria Mauleón has always avoided political topics on her yearly visits to her father’s family near Pamplona. This time she packed a microphone.

  • Maasai Schools

    Maasai Schools

    The Maasai people of Kenya have long considered public education as a trick designed to rob them of their culture. Now many see the schools as a key to survival – and as a way to change some aspects of their culture that need changing.

  • The Imaginary Village

    The Imaginary Village

    In 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee their homes to make way for the new state of Israel. More than 50 years later, the villages of Palestine remain intact in the imaginations of refugees and their descendants.

  • Mezcal Dreams

    Mezcal Dreams

    Mexican migrants to the U.S. send back billions of dollars to their families every year, but their absence comes at a price. Marianne McCune reports on one tiny pueblo that is brewing up plans to keep its people from leaving.

  • North End Neighborhood

    North End Neighborhood

    Boston’s North End is bursting with Old World charm. But a proposed commercial development has newcomers and old-timers at odds over the type of neighborhood they want to live in. Their positions aren’t what you might expect.

  • Singapore Renewal

    Singapore Renewal

    Singapore’s Chinatown used to be a crowded and chaotic place. Then the government renewed the life right out of it. Authorities are working to restore the neighborhood’s authenticity, but with little success. Little India, meanwhile, has retained its character. Is there a lesson here?

  • Rethinking France’s Republican Deal, Part 2

    Rethinking France’s Republican Deal, Part 2

    Exploring the rapidly changing worlds of France’s Muslims and Jews. In the first part of a two-part series, we meet the Chefegs, a Muslim family from the suburbs of Paris.

  • Rethinking France’s Republican Deal, Part 1

    Rethinking France’s Republican Deal, Part 1

    Exploring the rapidly changing worlds of France’s Muslims and Jews. In the first part of a two-part series, we meet the Alters, a Jewish family from Toulouse.

  • Higher Ground: Borneo Resettlement

    Higher Ground: Borneo Resettlement

    In the late 1990s, the government of Malaysia uprooted 15,000 indigenous people to make way for the giant Bakun dam. Most were resettled in “model” towns, where unemployment, drugs and crime took root. About 400 members of the Kenyah tribe decided to build their own resettlement center instead.

  • Bringing Home the Bones

    Bringing Home the Bones

    Members of the Haida nation retrieve ancestral remains from a museum in Chicago and carry them home for proper burial in the Queen Charlotte Islands, off Canada’s Pacific coast. It’s a journey full of pain and healing – and part of a worldwide movement among native groups to reclaim what is theirs.

  • Andean Harvest

    Andean Harvest

    Peasant farmers in Peru’s central highlands grow hundreds of varieties of potatoes. Now they’re being encouraged to sell them to high-end consumers. But potatoes are more than just food in the Andes – they’re part of a complex spiritual, biological, and cultural universe. Will the market change that?

  • Welsh Renaissance

    Welsh Renaissance

    Languages around the world are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. But Welsh is making a comeback, and children are leading the way. Now the challenge is to move Welsh from the classroom to the living room. Meet the Steel family of Clydach.

  • Chiloe: A Bridge Too Far?

    Chiloe: A Bridge Too Far?

    The island of Chiloé, off the coast of Chile, is known for its misty beauty, quaint architecture, and distinctive cuisine. Now Chile’s government is proposing to build the longest bridge in Latin America to connect Chiloé to the mainland. Islanders aren’t sure they want to be connected.

  • Camisea: A Light in the Jungle

    Camisea: A Light in the Jungle

    For the native peoples of the Amazon, petroleum development has often been an environmental and cultural nightmare. But in Camisea, a huge natural gas deposit in eastern Peru, the oil companies say they’re committed to getting it right. The Machiguenga people aren’t yet convinced.

  • To Perpetuate Life as it was Meant to Be

    To Perpetuate Life as it was Meant to Be

    By almost every measure, native Hawaiians are the worst off of Hawaii’s many ethnic groups. One of the biggest problems is drug abuse. Ho’omau Ke Ola is a community treatment program that looks to island traditions for a way forward.

  • Sarvodaya: An Alternate Path

    Sarvodaya: An Alternate Path

    Can development based on spiritual values, local activism, and volunteer labor compete with a global system built on western market economics? From Sri Lanka, Sandy Tolan reports on a movement that seeks to improve the lot of millions of poor people with self-help programs steeped in Buddhist principles.

  • An Exodus Of Women

    An Exodus Of Women

    Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan women work abroad as housemaids, mainly in the Middle East. Their remittances are a cornerstone of their country’s economy, and a desperately needed source of income for their families. But their absence is keenly felt.