Danger of a Single Story Notes
We are all guilty of perpetuating stereotypes that create a single story, whether it’s intentional or not. In “Danger of a Single Story,” novelist Chimamanda Adichie puts it best: “Show people as one thing over and over again, and that’s what they become.”

In this TED Talk, the Nigerian author warns that we risk a very critical and very cultural misunderstanding when we forget that everyone’s lives and identities are composed of many overlapping stories.


What is the Danger of a Single Story?


“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”

When we hear the same story over and over again, it becomes the only story we ever believe. And this stands especially true for the story of Africa.

Too often do we hear this version—Africa, the poorest “country” in the world where only rural landscapes exist and where people live in terror amongst wild animals.

Too often do we treat Africa as one narrative, one we have fostered over generations and generations, becoming so institutionalized that even those who graduated from universities will sometimes slip and refer to Africa as a country or their language as “African.”

This is the danger of a single story, and it brings to mind a quote by American writer Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

We must learn to unlearn these perpetuated stereotypes in order to allow ourselves to see that there is more than this one narrative to Africa—to anything, really.

Adichie’s novels are inspired by Nigerian history, telling the forgotten stories that generations of Westerners fail to repeat.

However, she reminds us that we must not only seek diverse perspectives, we must also tell our own stories, ones that only we can tell about our own personal experiences.

What she hopes to follow are the first signs of crumbling of clichés and stereotypes, something that’s long overdue but never too late a process to begin.

Adichie’s “Danger of a Single Story” is one of the most powerfully crafted speeches ever given, one where every single word counts.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”


Hear Chimamanda Adichie’s story.


Chelsee Yee

Sources: TED Talks, CNN
Photo: BBC

These are ten women transforming Africa through economic, literary, and technological spheres.

  • Chimamanda Adichie is a Nigerian writer transforming the next generation of African literature. Her critically acclaimed breakout novel, Purple Hibiscus, was awarded the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book, whilst her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, won the prestigious Orange Prize. Her latest book, released in May 2014, tackles the precarious issue of race in the post-9/11 world.
  • Dambisa Moyo is a Zambian economist best known for her acclaimed book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working, which argues against the introduction of foreign aid in Africa. The book instead advocates for an African-based initiative for the continent’s future.
  • Saran Kaba Jones is a Liberian social entrepreneur and a powerful advocate for clean water. She formed FACE Africa, an organization that supports access to clean water, proper hygienic conditions, and sanitation facilities in Liberia.
  • Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu is the founder of soleRebels, based in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, which sells fair-trade, locally-produced footwear. Its sales have introduced over $1 million dollars into the local economy.
  • Ndidi Nwuneli is the Nigerian founder of LEAP Africa, an organization that provides leadership training and coaching services to a variety of social entrepreneurs to provide them with the skills necessary for success.
  • Khanyi Ndhlomo is a South African woman reshaping the course of African media. Her company, Ndalo Media, runs two highly successful business and lifestyle publications: Destiny Magazine and Destiny Man.
  • Lisa Kropman established The Business Place, a collection of business centers that provide support to young entrepreneurs in Southern Africa.
  • Julie Gichuru serves as one of the leading journalists in Kenya, having done so for the past eleven years in a variety of mediums, including broadcast, print, and online media. She works presently as an executive at Citizen TV, Kenya.
  • June Arunga is the founder of Open Quest Media LLC, as well as a founding partner of Black Star Line SA, a technology-based company that facilitates cell-phone payments and money transfers. All of her ventures are focused on nurturing the African economy.
  • Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan lawyer and activist who created Ushahidi, a crowd sourcing system through which people from around the world can report violence as it unfolds through their cell phones, emails, or Twitter accounts. She is globally recognized as one of the prominent female leaders in technology.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Forbes, The Guardian
Photo: University of Liege