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Critical Security Studies in International Politics




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


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.

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: Seminar Performance
Percentage: 15%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Presentation
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Assessment: Take-home essay
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 4 25/09/2011 23h59

Assessment: Final research essay
Percentage: 30%
Deadline: Week 8 21/10/2011 23h59

Assessment 1: Seminar performance (15%)
Guidelines for participation:

  • Students should actively participate in the teamwork of their case study group.

  • Students should actively participate in all seminar activities.

Assessment 2: Group presentations (25%)
Assessment criteria of presentations:

  1. Good understanding of the readings
  2. Ability to complement readings through your own research (academic or news articles, books, websites)
  3. Ability to critique and take a critical distance from the readings
  4. General presentation skills and clarity

Assessment 3: Individual Take-Home Exam Essays (40%)
In this element of assessment, you will be required to answer two essay questions from a choice of five questions. Your answers to each question should be approximately 1,000 words long (±10%) (five to seven paragraphs long).

Assessment 4: Individual Written Essay (30%)
As part of the course requirements, students should write an individual essay on the topic of the presentation. This should be 3000 (±10%) words and should build upon your contribution to the group presentation (inevitably, this means that you will only be looking at one or two seminar questions of the weekly topic). Where students feel it relevant they may also include aspects of the discussion.

Essays must follow the rules indicated in the document “how write a good political science paper?” (the document is on blackboard)

The repressive section:

1.If you fail to meet the deadline for submission of coursework without genuine extenuating circumstances (see ‘Regulations for Course’), you will loose one point per day. One week delay will be an automatic fail for that particular assignment. Please inform your seminar instructor if there are any issues, requirements or problems related to the assessment.

  1. Failure to meet word limit (writing less or more than the limit ±10%) will be penalized by at ½ point per 100 word. For example: for an essay that has a limit of 3000 words, you can between 2700 and 3300 words. Writing 2400 words or 3700 will make you loose 1,5 points.

  2. Plagiarism means automatic fail of the assessment and a referral to the Examination Committee.


Most sessions will include chapters from:

Peoples, C. and N. Vaughan-Williams (2010). Critical security studies : an Introduction. London ; New York, Routledge. (in short: C.P. & N.VW., Critical Security Studies)

It is highly recommended to buy the book. Some chapters will be taken from the following other books, they are also useful references on security studies:

Williams, Paul (2008), Security studies : an Introduction, London ; New York, Routledge. (in short: P.W., Security Studies)

Collins, Alan (2010), Contemporary security studies, Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press. (in short: A.C. Contemporary security studies)

Other material will be provided in PDF format via Blackboard.

Contact Information

Course Convenor: Francesco Ragazzi
Email: f.ragazzi@fsw.leidenuniv.nl
Room: Institute of Political Science, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden. Room 5B13

Weekly Overview

Week 1:
1. Introduction to the Course: Critical, Security, Studies
2. Traditional Security Studies: survival, war, defense, peace making
Week 2:
1. The Critical Security Studies project
2. From Security to Securitization
Week 3:
1. International Political Sociology
2. Terrorism and radicalisation
Week 4:
1. Counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization
2. Migration, security and technology
Week 5:
1. War I: privatization of security
2. Crime and pre-crime in surveillance societies
Week 6:
1. War II: War and technology: towards cyborg war?
2. Human Security
Week 7:
1. Environmental security
2. Final Session

Preparation for first session