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State of the Field Seminar: Critical Security in East Asia


Admission requirements

Some background in Contemporary East Asian politics and international relations would be beneficial. For suggestions for preparatory reading for those without a background in international relations, please contact Dr. Black.


How is ‘security’ defined in International Relations? Who or what is ‘secured’ (the state, citizens, the environment…) and who ‘secures’ (the state, communities, the military…)? How has the field of security studies evolved and with what repercussions? What theoretical frameworks can be employed to understand security issues in the East Asian region?

This course examines a number of approaches to understanding contemporary security issues in the East Asian region. The course begins by problematizing the concept of ‘security’. We then examine the foundational work in the field of security studies, focusing, in particular, on traditional conceptions of security and realism. From there, we examine the liberalist notion of the ‘democratic peace’ and consider how the democratic peace is relevant to East Asian states. Following these three introductory sessions, we begin to challenge the orthodoxy of traditional security studies by delving into a series of constructivist and critical theories and concepts, including the Copenhagen School and securitization, emancipation, discourse and identity, human security, environmental security, feminism, and postcolonial approaches. In each of these sessions we will apply the theoretical frameworks and concepts to specific case studies. The case studies comprise the role of civil society in banning cluster munitions, securitization of maritime piracy, the plight of refugees in East Asia, the management of nuclear arsenals in the case of the Six Party Talks, paranoia and the ‘War on Terror’, protest and repression in Burma, women in and affected by East Asian military forces, Humanitarian Intervention and the responsibility to protect, security tensions between China and Taiwan, energy security and the environment. Through applying the theories to specific cases, students will develop a sophisticated understanding of contemporary security issues in the East Asian region.

The issues addressed in this course will have relevance to a number of disciplines. Students should draw on previous work they have done in other academic fields and demonstrate their knowledge in seminars, as well as in their assessed work. It is also hoped that students will apply the knowledge they gain through studying Critical Approaches in the International Relations of East Asia to other courses they are taking.

Students are expected to use additional sources to those in the suggested reading list and to keep up-to-date with current affairs through reading newspapers, relevant internet sites and online journals.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to security issues in the East Asian region. The focus of this module is on developments since World War Two, but with a particular emphasis on the post-Cold War period. By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of the complex issues and processes related to security issues in the East Asian region.

  • Apply complex conceptual tools to analyze key events in and processes related to security issues in East Asia.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts and approaches on East Asian security issues, and lead class discussions.


Tuesday 11.00-13.00

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation Element (incl. attendance, participation, presentation) – 30%
Analytical Element – (five position papers) – 30%
Research Element – (research essay 4,000 words) – 40%


A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the semester.
Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester; Blackboard

Reading list

The course is structured around three core textbooks, which will be available on Dr. Black’s Shelf in the East Asian library. These textbooks may also be purchased from the internet and local bookshops. Students are advised to read Fierke in preparation for the course.
Booth, Ken. Ed. 2005. Critical Security Studies and World Politics. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner.
Burke, Anthony and McDonald, Matt. Eds. 2007. Critical Security in the Asia-Pacific. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.
Fierke, K.M. 2007. Critical Approaches to International Security. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press..


Students can sign up to the class via uSis
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. L. Black
Room 008, Het Arsenaal;
Office Hours: Tuesday 15:00-17:00
Alternative times are by appointment only