The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

by Ursula K. Le Guin
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  • In the reading, "The Dispossessed," an interesting conversation between Atro and Shevek develops. In relation to Saussure’s notion that signs can only be distinguished through difference (See “Saussure’s Redefinition of a Word, pages 96-98), analyze why the term “Cetian” has become necessary. Through an examination of Atro’s argument, how is this new word utilized to uphold hegemony through the use of alterity? [One Paragraph]

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    In "The Dispossessed," Atro and Shevek have an interesting conversation that illustrates the principles explained in "Saussure's Redefinition of a Word." The central argument in the reading is that identities and things are defined by what they are not, through negative comparison and the inherent difference between things. Atro believes this wholeheartedly as he tries to explain to Shevek that the Cetian brotherhood found between Urras and Anarres must necessarily exclude the Terrans, the Hainish and other humanoid races. This exclusion is, in Atro's mind, what creates the bond of brotherhood between Cetians in the first place. Shevek rejects this exclusionary ideology and believes that the term Cetian is divisive when used in such a manner. He rightly notes that the new use of the word Cetian has been used to enable the classist system found on Annares. By labeling some as Cetians and the rest of the Urrasti population as others, it is easy for the elite Cetians to treat those they deem outsiders as animals rather than equals.

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