The Dangers of a Single Story paired with Orientalism 

One of the most powerful TED talks that I have ever listened to debuted in 2009. The conversation Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie holds with this audience about what a single story can hold against many people throughout the world and the harm that it may possess is captivating. 

A single story is a concept which emphasizes the possibility of misunderstandings with another person or culture. Single stories spread throughout the world like a wildfire. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explained her experience with her American roommate when attending college she explained the difficulties of the single story her roommate held for Adichie being from Nigeria, “My roommate had a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe. In this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.” Single stories lead to misconceptions about culture, gender, and race. 

Orientalism is described, by Richard Said, as a critical concept to describe the West’s commonly contemptuous depiction and portrayal of “The East”. Societies and peoples of the Orient are those who inhabit the places of Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East. The critical concepts many people perceive are damaging and hold stereotypes that are untrue. 

The single story articulates a similar narrative to Orientalism. Both contain a false conception about the cultures and lives of many people, which have lasting effects throughout the generations.

2 thoughts on “The Dangers of a Single Story paired with Orientalism 

  1. Arianna Spruille

    I had never thought about how I could relate that famous Ted talk with what we’re studying now. I didn’t realize the shared parallels between her experiences and those of Orientalism.



    That ted talk was meaningful to me too, and I wonder if Adichie is a fan of Said. I believe the first time I watched that video was freshman year history, and that class really broadened my horizons a lot.


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