Food for Thought Friday: Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”

chimamanda adichie, ted talk, stereotype

For this Food for Thought Friday, Marabou looks at Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story.” Adichie’s discussion of the need for many voices and stories in literature directly relates to the need for many museums to realize they are perpetuating a single historical narrative and how this has a damaging impact.

One of Marabou’s favorite quotes from the lecture is when Adichie shares how the stories she wrote as a child were full of white characters and experiences she, herself, had never had. Adichie said,

“What this demonstrates, I think, is how impressionable and vulnerable we are in the face of a story, particularly as children. Because all I had read were books in which characters were foreign, I had become convinced that books, by their very nature, had to have foreigners in them and had to be about things with which I could personally not identify.”

Have you ever seen yourself reflected in a museum’s collection? Does this reflection/representation or lack of it influence the way you feel about museums?

Another favorite quote comes from the latter part of Adichie’s talk when she asserts,

“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.”

When was the last time you realized that you were taught to understand a culture/religion/country through a single story?

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