Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of Single Stories

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How does Chimamanda define 'the single story'?

She defines 'the single story' as the tendency to reduce individuals or groups to a single narrative or perspective, often based on stereotypes, preconceived notions, or limited information. A single story shows a group of people as one thing and only one thing over and over again until that is what they become.

Name four 'single stories' that she discusses in this talk

Chimamanda's roommate who had a single story of Africa. She had a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, Africans weren't similar to her at all. She just felt pity for them. She stereotyped Chimamanda as a woman who shouldn't know how to speak English, listened to tribal music, and not well-known authors...

Chimamanda's professor who thought her novel was not authentically African. The professor told her that the characters from the novel were too much like him, educated and middle class, driving cars, not starving. Therefore, the professor thought that the novel wasn't authentically African.

Chimamanda's domestic houseboy Fide. Her mother repeatedly told her how poor Fide's family was, sending them food, old clothes, etc. She also made some assertions reflecting the negative economic situation Fide's family faced. However, one Saturday when they visited Fide's family in their neighborhood, Chimamanda was amused to see the beautiful basket Fide's brother had made. She didn't believe/know that anyone in Fide's family was able to do something. She just knew they were poor, and that was the only thing she could see in them.

Chimamanda's trip to Mexico, she was living in the US when tensions arrived regarding Mexicans and immigration. She heard endless negative stories of Mexicans. However, when she visited Guadalajara, she then realized people went to work, laughed. Although she was firstly surprised, she then got overwhelmed with shame since she realized Mexicans had become one thing in her mind due to the single story telling in the US

Why does she think the 'single story' is dangerous?

She thinks a single story is dangerous since it creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story. A single story can lead to misunderstandings, biases, and misconceptions about people and cultures. It makes our recognition of equal humanity difficult, it emphasizes our differences rather than our similarities...

According to Chimamanda, power affects the telling of stories. What did she mean? Give an example.

Chimamanda is expressing her concern on how stories are often told by those who have the power. How they are told, who tells them, when, how many are told depend on those in power. Power doesn't just have the ability to tell the story of another person but to make it the definite story. An example may be seen in our economic and political worlds.

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