The Danger of a Single Story

In her brilliant TED Talk The Danger of a Single Story Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie lets her audience in on a important observation…

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She says, 

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

As we take this 8-week journey together part of my goal as your professor and facilitator will be for all of us to consider our personal Stories as well as the Stories we’ve been told and believe about communicating inside and outside of our respective cultures. If there is one defining point of Chapter 1 – 2 it is to help us realize that a) we are a part of a globalized ever changing multicultural world b) the primary ingredient is human communication – something we all do, and finally c) cultural differences like gender roles, group orientation, aging and social skills influence our personal, familial and community perspectives.  

As I stated in our syllabus, “each of us has been socialized in different ways over the course of our lives. We have been taught the “correct” behavior from our families, communities, and various other relational connections.” For each of us, this socialization affects who we are and how we behave more than we realize. We have to begin with ourselves to unpack how we view our own Intercultural behaviors and competencies. 

To begin this week’s discussion:

1) View Chimamanda,  The Danger of a Single Story (Links to an external site.) (

2) After you view her TED Talk read through chapter 1 – 3 and consider one concluding discussion of “culture in human behavior.” The authors’ observe even though, “culture is an instrumental variable in human interaction” there can be problems. As such, they offer four caveats to clarify the link between culture and communication. From your personal perspective how do the four caveats (see specifically chapter 1) help you understand culture in human behavior? 

3) Finally, use the Danger of a Single Story to explain how Chimamanda acknowledges that we can get both culture and the communication of culture wrong? What is an example she offers of the problems with a single story?

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