You can’t do anything on the Internet without tripping on the often-tortured logic of a TED talk. These 18-minute ubiquitous talks are to knowledge what espresso is to coffee. They give you what you need quickly, with none of the pleasure, and they often get really hard to swallow by the end. But NPR’s association with the TED enterprise – because, yes, TED is a business – has lent some of that public radio ambiance-building that erases images of academics waving their hands around trying to be culturally relevant while wearing Britney Spears microphones.
This particular episode tackles identity, through four very different speakers. There’s Tan Le, a Vietnamese-Australian entrepreneur, co-Founder of Emotiv, who was named the 1998 Young Australian of the Year. She tells a poignant story of immigration as identity. Writer Andrew Solomon brings a different perspective to the debate, changing his identity because of the difficulties his child faced. Elif Şafak talks about going from Strasbourg to Ankara to Amman to Cologne to Boston and so on. She currently lives between London and Istanbul. She dislikes the word identity and would rather we talk about belonging. And finally, Pico Iyer talks from his home-for-the-week, Santa Barbara. It’s the address on his tax forms. The soft-spoken British-Indian author makes attempts to answer that damn question, “Where are you from?” and, in the process, realizes that the amount of people now living in a country that isn’t their own makes us the fifth biggest nation on earth. Definitely a podcast to listen to as soon as you can.