Critical Security Studies
This module explores the contemporary security agenda in world politics. It addresses both theoretical debates over the nature of security and the range of phenomena currently identified as security threats.
The module takes as its point of entry, the emergence in the post Cold War world of the idea of human security, which challenged the traditional view that the state was the primary referent of security. Today’s security landscape is complex, asymmetrical and includes heterogeneous actors. Contemporary security studies now focuses on a broad range of actors – states, individuals, substate groups, transnational NGOs and intergovernmental organisations. These actors are studied as: i) subjects exposed to a range of security threats; individuals and collectivities seek to reduce their vulnerability to risk; as sources of insecurity themselves.
The module is divided into three sections.
The first analyses different theoretical approaches to studying security within world politics. It compares and contrasts the traditional Realist Strategic Studies approach with current ‘critical’ approaches to security studies, such as the Copenhagen and governmentality schools. The second identifies some of the most pressing contemporary threats to individual, national and global security. Alongside established concerns with UN collective security and peacekeeping, the module also addresses the ‘new security’ threats deriving from resource scarcity and environmental degradation, flows of refugees and migration, disease and health, and organised crime. The final section sketches out the contours of an evolving security landscape associated with the War on Terror.
In particular, it addresses the relationship between the discourse of the War on Terror and the emergence of two new spaces of (in)security: i) states of exception such as Guantanamo Bay and ii) the surveillance territories of homeland security.
Lecturer: Dr Jeremy Larkins