Critical Dystopia: Local Narrative in the Threshold in Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia


This study is an exploration of critical dystopia within a postmodern context. Literary and historical viewpoints associate dystopia with the failed utopia of twentieth-century totalitarianism manifested in regimes of extreme coercion, inequality, and slavery. Raffaella Baccolini and Tom Moylan, of whose perspective this study makes use, theorize that critical dystopia provides a potential for change through rejecting the traditional dystopian ending marked by the subjugation of the individual. Problematizing critical dystopia further, the study proposes that the critical orientation of this sub-genre originates mainly from the “local narrative” of a subject whose agency generates from his position in the “threshold” between those in and under control, combined with the “counter-conducts” he uses to acquire knowledge, memory, and awakened consciousness. As a full agent, the subject resists the “utopian” “metanarrative” of an oppressive system/structure and offers possibilities of meaning in a process of “différance” which entails a potential for change. This proposition is clarified through the close reading of Ahmed Khaled Towfik’s Utopia (2011; first published in Arabic in 2008). The novel is discussed as a critical dystopian text in which Gaber, the subject in the “threshold,” opposes the totalitarian regime of Utopia in his “local narrative.”


Reem Resheq, Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh


counter-conduct, critical dystopia, local narrative, postmodernity

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