The Danger of a Single Story


“Human beings as a species are wonderful storytellers and create their world through stories. How do we learn to unravel the stories we have told ourselves and create new stories so that we can discover the self and the world around us? How can we interpret and create authentic stories? What’s the crucial role of questions in helping us accomplish this?” (Patel et al., 2012, p.110). This activity encourages students to question the dominant stories and representations that they or others may have about other peoples, places or cultures.

Students will:

  • Recognise that they themselves have a particular worldview or way of understanding the world which will influence the way they see, think and do
  • Acknowledge the existence of multiple knowledges (or worldviews)
  • Appreciate how these knowledges (or worldviews) will impact a person’s understanding of a particular event or story


30 mins


Access to video link:

The process

Pre-departure activity – The Danger of a Single Story

  • Students are to watch the TED talk by the Nigerian Novelist, Chimamanda Adichie.

This is a powerful talk in which Adichie shares ‘the danger of a single story’, warning that if we only hear a single story about a person, country or issue we risk great misunderstanding. Adichie observes, “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.”

  • Students are asked to find an example of a ‘single story’ and to reflect on the ways it has impacted their understanding of a particular event; historical or contemporary / personal or public.
  • Students are to first share their ‘single story’ in pairs (in the case of smaller student numbers you may invite participants to share with the whole group).
  • Returning to the group for discussion, the facilitator may ask whether student examples are about:
    • a) Single stories we have about other peoples, places or things; or
    • b) Single stories others have about themselves.
  • Which stories tend to prevail and become ‘the one story’ and why?


Chimamanda Adichie (2009). The Danger of a Single Story. TED Global.