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Critical Security Studies


Admission requirements

This course builds upon 100-level courses in World Politics and gives access to 300-level courses in World Politics.


Security is not only a central concept of International Relations; it has taken an ever-increasing role in our everyday lives. The concern for collective security has been at the center of the creation of international institutions such as the United Nations, NATO or the European Union. But security is also invoked in the checks at the airport, in the introduction of biometric identity documents and in the proliferation of CCTVs. Security is both what democracies argue they provide their citizens with, and what dictatorships invoke to repress their populations. So what is security exactly, and what do we mean when we speak about security? Who and what is the object of security, and is security necessarily a common “good”? Has the state security the same value as human security? Should we balance liberty and security? Is there such a thing as the security of a nation, a community or an identity? Traditional security studies typically focus on inter-state relations, discussing issues of nuclear proliferation, deterrence and balance of power. While this course will not ignore these issues, the emphasis will be on approaches that question the traditional assumptions of state-centered theories. The course will articulate theoretical discussions (what is security, what is “critique”?) with detailed case studies, addressing among other issues, international migration, the impact of 9/11, terrorism and counter-terrorism, technologies of security and surveillance (drones, biometrics, CCTVs, databases), the development-security nexus, the military-industrial-media-entertainment network (war games) and environmental security. The course will conclude on the ethical and political implications of thinking critically about security, and on the possible articulations of theory and practice.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to security issues. 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.

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

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills; develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts and approaches and lead class discussions.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. During the course of the seminar students are expected to take part in both large and small group discussions; participate in seminar discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The role of the instructor is to ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a ‘required reading’ list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are also recommended to read some of the items listed under ‘suggested reading’ prior to each seminar and use the extended list as a starting point in their preparation for essay writing

Assessment method

  1. Interactive engagement with course material and individual engagement with course readings: assessed through a presentation (25% of final grade) and Seminar Performance (15% of final grade, Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7
  2. Understanding of course content: assessed in Take-home essay (30% of the final grade), due in week 4
  3. Expression of holistic understanding of the course: assessed through Final research essay (30% of final grade), due in Week 8


This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

Most sessions will include chapters from:

Peoples, C. and N. Vaughan-Williams (2010). Critical security studies : an introduction. London ; New York, Routledge.

It is highly recommended to buy the book. Other material will be provided in PDF format via Blackboard.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Dr. Francesco Ragazzi
Institute of Political Science, Leiden University

Weekly Overview

Theoretical introduction

Session 1: What is security? What is critique?
Session 2: Traditional Security Studies: survival, war, defense, peace making
Session 3: Critical Security Studies: Broadening of the field
Session 4: Critical constructivism and International Political Sociology

Contemporary issues

Session 5: 9/11 and the state of exception
Session 6: Terrorism, counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization
Session 7: Migration: technology and security at the border
Session 8: Surveillance societies and the panopticon
Session 9: War I: privatization of security
Session 10: War II: Counter-insurgency, Network-centric warfare, and unmanned wars
Session 11: Human Security and the “Third World”
Session 12: Environmental security

Normative questions

Session 13: Security and liberty: a necessary balance?
Session 14: Securitization and desecuritization: normative dilemmas