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The Evolution of Market Niches in Oaxacan Woodcarving

Michael Chibnik
Ethnology
Vol. 39, No. 3 (Summer, 2000), pp. 225-242
DOI: 10.2307/3774108
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3774108
Page Count: 18
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The Evolution of Market Niches in Oaxacan Woodcarving
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Abstract

Economic anthropologists studying craft commercialization have typically focused on changes in work organization associated with new international commodity chains linking artisans, development organizations, wholesalers, and store owners. Few researchers, however, have carefully examined the product differentiation that ordinarily accompanies increased craft sales. Artisans in such circumstances typically innovate and develop specialties in an attempt to establish a niche for themselves in a complex economic environment. Such market segmentation resembles the later stages of product life cycles described in the business literature and is somewhat analogous to the proliferation of equilibrium species in mature or climax stages of ecological successions. This article examines the evolution of market niches in commercial woodcarvings in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Specialization is the result of both market demands and the initiative of artisans. The artisans do not have total freedom in their attempts to create market niches. They are restricted by their abilities and the labor and capital they can mobilize.

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