Redefining Dystopia

Dystopia is defined as a societal structure in which a person or group of persons subject a portion, if not all, of the population to oppression with the intent to gain through conformity.

I decided on this definition because I wanted to specify what, the doer, the receiver, the action, the why, and the how. In my definition, the what is a societal structure; the doer is the person or group of persons; the receiver is the given population; the action is the subjection to oppression; the why is the intent to gain; the how is conformity. This is a structure similar to the 5W’s. I feel like the difference in my definition versus most is that I include the doer and the why. These two things are very important to include because they provide more detail about a dystopia. When forming my definition, I thought a lot about Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression” article and how she described oppression. She characterized it using what she refers to as the five faces: exploitation, cultural imperialism, marginalization, powerlessness, and violence. The faces I believe are most relevant are cultural imperialism, marginalization, and powerlessness. The cultural imperialism is represented by the why; the marginalization is represented by the receiver; the powerlessness is represented by a combination of the action and the population. I wanted to include these in my definition as best as I could because that seem to be prevalent in majority of dystopias both fiction and reality. 

The why and how in my definition were the components that I wanted to be sure I included because I noticed that in all of the dystopias I have seen or read about include some form of gain by forcing conformity. This gain includes but is not limited to a gain in money, power, and/or control. This was evident to me in Michael Foucault’s “Panopticism.” When he described the Panopticon, it was always centered around being able to surveil whoever was present in the cell to have control over their actions. The cell was being used to ensure that the guardians could watch them. The cells limited access to others because the Panopticon was meant to be a way to ensure individuals did not act outside of how they were expected. Reading this made it clear to me how abusive powers in dystopias are constantly pushing for conformity for the sake of themselves at the hands of the marginalized group. Therefore, adding the why and how to my definition was critical to its accuracy and validity. 

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