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In Response: The Danger of a Single Story

Assignment: Watch The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and write a response on your blog

This talk from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie reminds me of a lesson I learned about anthropology. Anthropology is the study of humanity, but it is founded from a Western perspective. Much of historical anthropology focuses on aboriginal and indigenous cultures, yet these are stories nearly always from the point of view of a European white male. Thus, the student or reader is receiving a version of the story that is already laced with judgement. When I learned this, my interest in the subject matter immediately dissipated. I wanted to learn about these cultures from the source, not from a third party!

Adichie quite eloquently explains some of the contributing factors to her childhood influenced by British stories as a young Nigerian girl. Yes, colonial powers are “more powerful” and have more resources to spread their ‘gospel’ to the far corners of the world. Colonizers must have been so egocentric to have gone all around the world and struggle to celebrate the first-person perspective of the societies they claimed power over. If they were so good at producing literature, why did only the British stories proliferate?

It’s shocking how deep the roots of colonialism have spread. Do you think ethnic cultures are shy or slow to share their stories? Or maybe they just need more power—more resources—to pass them around. In the height of the Black Lives Matter movement last year, I created a mini “anti-racist library” of written work from (mostly) black authors. It was a great joy to read and share excellently crafted stories and ideas from these writers. I hope we can continue to do so, because I want to participate in a society that will also value my voice.

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