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TED Talk: The Danger of a Single Story

Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie challenges, captivates and inspires in this thought-provoking TED Talk.

Go to TED.com for a written transcript of this TED Talk.

Discussion questions:

The importance and influence of childhood stories

Adichie began to write stories herself at an early age. In these stories, she says "all my characters were white and blue-eyed, they played in the snow, they ate apples, and they talked a lot about the weather, how lovely it was that the sun had come out." Adichie goes on to further explain that "I did not know that people like me could exist in literature."

Discuss the importance and influence of childhood stories.

  • How can Adichie's statement above about not realising that people like yourself can exist in a story, affect a child?
  • What stories shaped your imagination as a child?
  • Adichie talk about "a mental shift" in her perception of literature. Has this talk changed your perception of literature in any way?

The consequences of a single story

How can one create a dangerous single story? "Show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become."

  • Adichie gives several examples from her own life to illustrate how common the idea of a single story is. Which one made the greatest impact on you?
  • Look up the word 'stereotype' in an online dictionary and then discuss the following statement: "The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story."
  • Can you relate to the idea of forming an opinion of something or someone, based on a single story?

Writing Task

An online campaign called #StoriesMatter aims to showcase the art of storytelling. The people behind it want others to share recommendations of books, films, video clips etc. that have influenced them in some way.

Your task is to create a social media post (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.) where you recommend a story that is worth sharing with other people. In addition to the written text, include an image and, of course, the hashtag #StoriesMatter.

CC BY-SASkrevet av Sonja Nygaard-Joki.
Sist faglig oppdatert 06.04.2020


Indigenous Cultures and Traditions