Finding a Niche

Finding a Niche (54:02) looks at how societies with strong local traditions are responding to the challenges and opportunities of the global marketplace. At the heart of each story is a moment of decision about identity and tradition, modernity and change. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and National Geographic anthropologist Wade Davis provide contrasting perspectives on the choices facing traditional peoples.

listen here    

Feature stories heard in this hour

Andean Harvest
Peasant farmers in Peru's central highlands grow hundreds of varieties of potatoes, almost all for their own consumption. Now they're being encouraged to sell part of their crop to high-end urban consumers. But potatoes are more than just food in the Andes—they're part of a complex spiritual, social, biological and cultural universe. Will the market change that? Jon Miller visits during the harvest.

A Map of the Sea
For centuries, the Newfoundland fishery was hailed as the greatest in the world. Then, after years of overfishing, the cod disappeared. Fishing was at the heart of the oldest non-aboriginal culture in the Americas. Now the islanders must find a way to keep that culture from going the way of the cod. Newfoundland native Chris Brookes produced this complex meditation on memory, culture, music and dance.
Connecting the Hebrides
Scotland's Outer Hebrides are peaceful, quiet and starkly beautiful—but they're a tough place to make a living. For decades, well-educated islanders have been leaving in search of economic opportunity on the mainland or overseas. But now they're streaming back, thanks to new technology. Vera Frankl looks at how the Internet is transforming the economy and keeping the culture alive.
Mezcal Dreams
Mexican migrants to the US send home billions of dollars every year, but their absence comes at a price. Families are divided, villages are deserted and centuries-old traditions are slipping away. For many rural Mexicans, taking part in the global economy means leaving home. But others are looking to the global market for ways to stay put. Marianne McCune visits one pueblo that's pinning its hopes on its fiery local liquor.

Related stories

Café Rebeldía
The Mutvitz cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, is using its ties to the Zapatista rebel movement to tap into the growing global "solidarity market" for its organic, shade-grown coffee. For members of the cooperative, selling coffee is a way of reaffirming their Mayan identities. Tatiana Schreiber listens in as the group entertains a delegation of American and European buyers.
Sri Lanka: An Exodus of Women
Hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan women work abroad as maids, 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 what is the impact of this mass migration on Sri Lankan culture and society? Sandy Tolan travels to Jordan and Sri Lanka to find out.

Series credits

Executive Producer: Jon Miller
Associate Producers: Lara Ratzlaff and Melissa Robbins
Senior Producers: Sandy Tolan and Alan Weisman
Host: María Hinojosa
Engineer: Robin Wise of Sound Imagery
Theme music: Samite, whose non-profit organization is Musicians for World Harmony
Website design: Jackie Cerretani of Lost Art Media

Thanks to (alphabetically): the AIR listserve, Jay Allison, Chris Ballman, Helen Barrington, Vincie Bertolino, Deb Blakeley, Peter Breslow, David L. Brown, Steve Burke, Bill Buzenberg, Betsy Gardella, Deborah George, Peggy Girshman, Nancy Hand, Beckie Kravetz, Loren Jenkins, Martha Little, Ingrid Lobet, Margaret Low Smith, Joyce MacDonald, Amy Mayer, Rebecca Nelson, Eric Nuzum, Keith Porter, Nancy Postero, Jeff Ramirez, Rod Richards, Marcus Rosenbaum, Didi Schanche, Steve Schultze, Stu Seidel, Jacqueline Sharkey, Bill Sokol, Sue Schardt, Bari Scott, Lynn Szwaja, Gwen Thompkins, Jeff Towne, Cecilia Vaisman, Gosia Wojniacka, Ellen Yuan.

Thanks also to the following people for granting interviews for the Worlds of Difference specials: Vohra Anupam, Hurriyet Babacan, Tyler Cowen, Wade Davis, Jonathan Friedman, Chip Gagnon, Barry Gills, Michael Hardt, Debra Harry, Mickey Hart, Ronald Inglehart, Pico Iyer, Mark Juergensmeyer, Smitu Kothari, Luisa Maffi, Ali Mazrui, Bill McKibben, Walter Mignolo, Ashis Nandy, Brendan O'Leary, Agnes Pareiyo, Kaiping Peng, Jules Pretty, Amartya Sen, Richard Chase Smith, Suresh Sharma, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Rhajib Vohra, Owens Wiwa, Mato Wyacopi.

Major funding for Worlds of Difference comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Polson Institute for Global Development at Cornell University and the Department of Journalism at the University of Arizona.

Homelands Productions is a non-profit journalism cooperative specializing in radio documentaries. Its mission is to illuminate complex issues through compelling broadcasts, articles, books and educational forums, and to foster freedom of expression and creative risk through the media arts.

Back to Top


Center for Public Broadcasting   Rockefeller Foundation  National Public Radio   Polson Institute   University of Arizona Department of Journalism