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International Security



Content: 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 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 and border controls, the impact of 9/11, terrorism and counter-terrorism, technologies of security and surveillance (drones, biometrics, CCTVs, databases, internet surveillance), 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

Objective 1: Enable students to think critically beyond state-centered conceptions of security.
Objective 2: Locate the study of international security within a broader sociological context.

Mode of Instruction

The course will normally be divided into two, two-hour sessions each week. The classes are almost exclusively lectures.

Study Material

The course will be based on a textbook: Peoples C and Vaughan-Williams N (2014) Critical security studies : an introduction (2nd edition). London ; New York: Routledge.

Assessment method

Final exam

First opportunity for exam: Monday 26 March 2018, 09.00 - 12.00 at the USC

Second opportunity for exam: Monday 11 June 2018, 09.00-12.00 at the USC



Students need to register for lectures in uSis. It is not possible to take a course without a valid registration. Please consult the course registration website for information on registration periods and further instructions.


Students are not automatically registered for exams. They can register themselves in uSis until 10 calendar days before the exam date at the latest. Students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the exam. More information can be found on the exam registration website.