Blog Post #6: How do you define dystopia?

A dystopia is an imagined society or world in which people may experience suffering from oppression, violence, control, environmental degradation, and totalitarian rule. 

My definition is inspired by many of the stories and movies we watched during the semester. In the reading “Five Faces of Oppression” by Iris Young, she says something that grabbed my attention. She spoke about how we might use oppression to describe other societies that are not our own, relating to communism perhaps. I think it is important to recognize oppression as it is a multi-faceted social construct affecting different groups in different ways. Oppression is a major factor in dystopian societies because it causes suffering and may lead to violence and a poor environment. Oppression comes from oppressors who are typically the rulers in society and are usually a totalitarian ruler. In addition, I find that control is a major factor in dystopian societies as well. Control can also take the form of surveillance and that is something we see a lot of today. With surveillance, you constantly have the idea that you are being watched and that idea alone will make you more likely to “follow the rules”. We got a glimpse of that from the “Panopticism” reading by Michel Foucault. With the prison design inspired by this reading inmates were under the impression that they were always being watched and in turn, it was the most optimal prison design. Although surveillance increases the chance of people doing what is morally right, it also takes away their freedom to do what is morally wrong. Perhaps what they are doing isn’t morally wrong but merely not what the person in charge wants them to do, therefore making it hard for them to make decisions for themselves. The other aspects of dystopias mentioned in my definition are not mutually exclusive, one can cause the other or maybe the issue stands alone. I think many factors play into a society driven by suffering and are not limited to what I mentioned.

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