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Unit information: Critical Security Studies in 2014/15

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Unit name Critical Security Studies
Unit code POLI31384
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Peoples
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce students to the 'critical turn' in the study of global security by tracing the move away from a state-centred militaristic approach to security. In contrast a variety of emerging schools of thought will be examined. These schools detail a more expansive conception of security that involves issues spanning economic, social, political and environmental spheres. The unit is divided into two main parts. The first part, 'Theories', will survey the newly extended and contested theoretical terrain of Critical Security Studies including 'securitization theory', post-Marxist approaches, feminism and postcolonial approaches. The second part, 'Emerging Practices', will allow students to assess the usefulness of these various theoretical approaches in assessing a diverse range of issues in contemporary security practices. Cases examined will include: Homeland Security and the War on Terror; Environmental Degradation and Resource Scarcity; Technology and Warfare in the Information Age; Human Security and Development; and Migration and Border Security.


  • To introduce students to a variety of critical approaches to contemporary security
  • To familiarise students with key ideas, concepts, and issues in critical security studies
  • To explore the benefits and drawbacks of employing an expanded conception of security that encompasses economic, social, political and environmental spheres as well as traditional military issues
  • To stimulate critical reflection on contemporary security practices .

Intended Learning Outcomes

As can be evaluated via the unit assessment, by the end of this unit students will be able to:

a) Identify and assess key ideas, concepts and theories in critical security studies

b) Review and discuss critical frameworks for thinking about security

c) Critically analyse key contemporary issues in international security and contemporary security practices

d) Illustrate and evaluate concepts and theories covered by the unit in relation to empirical issues

e) Develop independent arguments by synthesising a wide range of relevant information and evidence in relation to the study of security

f) Assess the merits and limitations of specific critical approaches the study of security

Teaching Information

A 1hr lecture and 2 hour seminar

Assessment Information

3000 Word Esssay (100%) (Summative Assessment)*

The essay questions for the unit will be specifically designed around cross-cutting thematic issues covered by the unit as a whole – see intended learning outcomes a) and b) above.

The essay questions will combine conceptual, theoretical and empirical components in order to allow for the assessment of intended learning outcomes a), b), c), d) and e) above. The essay questions will be specifically designed to allow for assessment of students ability to apply, evaluate and critically assess conceptual and theoretical frameworks within critical security studies – intended learning outcomes d) and f) above – and to synthesize information and evidence from across the unit as a whole in order provide this critical engagement – allowing for assessment of intended learning outcome e).

Reading and References

  • Booth, Ken (Ed.), (2005) Critical Security Studies and World Politics, London: Lynne Rienner.
  • Collins, Alan (Ed.), (2007) Contemporary Security Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fierke, Karen M. (2007), Critical Approaches to International Security, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Sheehan, Michael (2005), International Security: An Analytical Survey, London: Lynne Rienner.
  • Williams, Michael C. and Keith Krause (Eds) (1997) Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Williams, Paul D. (Ed.), (2008) Security Studies: An Introduction, Abingdon: Routledge.