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The Danger of a Single Story

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The Danger of a Single Story

TED Talk notes

My notes

  • She read foreign books and wrote stories similar to those books
  • Couldn’t relate to foreign books but continued to write about them
  • We are vulnerable to literature and stories especially as kids
  • Single stories provide one perception of things; you find it impossible to see something else
  • Single story of Africa: animals, landscapes, catastrophe, poverty
  • To create a single story, show people as one thing constantly and that is what they become
  • Single stories dependent on power
  • People of power choose how many stories to tell
  • Single stories create stereotypes
  • Single stories are also incomplete like stereotypes
  • Singles stories rob dignity
  • They emphasize differences
  • When we reject single stories, we regain a kind of paradise
  • Speaker kept looking down at her notes
  • Not many people reject single stories
  • Why do authors portray single stories?
  • Are there people that know about single stories but choose to reject other stories? Why?
  • There are many versions of single stories in politics
  • Do politicians create single stories with the purpose of creating single stories or does it just happen?
  • In different countries, there is a different single story of terrorism
  • Interesting how if you start a story with something rather than something else, it could be a different story
  • Start a story with the rich history of Mesopotamia rather than the current politics and war and you will have a completely different story
  • What is the mindset of authors when they write their books? Mindset of stereotypical people when they read such books?
  • Are single stories a form of ignorance?
  • Single stories are like looking through a small tube with one eye; you only see what a small circle on the other end
  • Single stories create single-minded people that are imprisoned and it prevents them from seeing the complete truth.


Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian native. During the talk, she describes what single stories are and provides examples of her life in which she had single stories of places and people. An example was of the family of the houseboy that they had. She tells the story of her eight-year-old self and how because she was continuously told of how poor and under poverty that boy and his family were. She began to see them simply as poor. One day, they visited and she saw that his brother created a basket. She was quite shocked because of her single story of them that they were poor; she couldn’t see them as anything else and didn’t believe that they could make anything. Single stories are formed when you show people or a place as one thing constantly until you are unable to see them as anything else. Single stories often rob dignity of the people and emphasize differences. Single stories are also like stereotypes as they are incomplete and often tell a tale that people in power want told. Adichie was also subject to multiple single stories growing up such as that of Mexicans being the “abject immigrants” and many others. (Adichie)


This talk was very interesting and it raised many valuable points that many people do not think about. Single stories have great power over people and their perceptions. There are hundreds of single stories of people, things, and countries out there. Nowadays, there are many single stories about terrorism. America portrays terrorism as something created by Muslims. The Middle Eastern gulf countries view terrorism as something from Iran and Iraq. Others view terrorism as it was created by the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). All these different countries have single stories created by people of power. If a ruler or politician wants to boycott a group or population, they could easily using single stories. Recently, Qatar was boycotted by its surrounding countries upon the claim that they pledge allegiance to terrorists. That is a single story presented by the countries surrounding Qatar such as KSA. Although, in Iran, they rejected that single story and began sending planes of food to Qatar as they were experiencing shortages. The populations of the mentioned countries mostly buy into the single stories presented by their governments. This is unfortunately the case and in a way, is like being brainwashed. Governments make their citizens think what they want them to think. Parallels can be drawn from this and George Orwell’s 1984 as governments use single stories to control what their population sees and thinks.



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