The danger of a “single story”

A huge tip of the hat to the blog Racialicious, for pointing me to this TED talk by the novelist Chimamanda Adichie. She speaks of the danger of the “single story,” by which she means a story that is told of a whole people, or an entire city, or any group, which constrains the many and diverse stories of that group, to one. She notes, towards the end of her talk:

Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity…. when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.

I think one reason I’ve gotten so interested in digital storytelling as a form of faith formation is precisely because in the process of learning how to tell one’s own story, you can become aware of the rich diversity of other stories. Christianity, for instance, is manifestly diverse, but somehow in the US in particular, there is increasingly a “single story” of Christianity. Even the Bible has never been a “single story” of God, and we are deeply impoverished by the attempts of anyone — particularly religious institutions — to constrain it to one.

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