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Critical Security Studies




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100 and 200 level courses. If in doubt, please contact the instructor about the competencies required 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 centre 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 CCTV systems. Security is both demanded by citizens from democratic governments, and invoked by dictatorships 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”? Does state security have the same value as human security? Is there a tension between 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 power balances. While this course will not ignore these issues, the emphasis will be on approaches that question the traditional assumptions of state-centred theories. The course will combine theoretical discussions (what is security, what does it mean to be “critical”?) with detailed case studies that address, 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 by exploring the ethical and political implications of thinking critically about security, and the possible relationships between 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 analyse 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. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions; present and defend their ideas within an academic setting; and take part in group projects. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion, but students are responsible for shaping its direction. 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.


To be confirmed in course syllabus:

  • Interactive engagement with course material will be assessed through seminar participation (15% of final grade). Ongoing, weeks 1 – 7.

  • Understanding of course content will be assessed through group presentations (15% of final grade). Weeks 1-7.

  • Individual engagement with course readings: assessed through individual take-home exam essays (2,000 words; 35% of final grade): Week 4

  • Expression of holistic understanding of the course: assessed through individual research project (2,000 words; 35% of final grade): due Week 8.


Peoples, Columba and Nicholas Vaughan-Williams, Critical Security Studies: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2010).

Williams, Paul, Security Studies: an Introduction (London: Routledge, 2008).

Collins, Alan, Contemporary Security Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Contact Information

Dr Edmund Frettingham: e.j.frettingham@luc.leidenuniv.nl

Weekly Overview

Part One: Approaches

  • Introduction: Critical, Security, Studies

  • Traditional Security Studies: Survival, War, Defence, Peacemaking

  • Critical Security Studies

  • From Security to Securitization

  • International Political Sociology

Part Two: Contemporary Issues

  • Terrorism and Radicalisation

  • Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation

  • Migration, Security and Technology

  • Crime and Pre-Crime in Surveillance Societies

  • War I: The Privatisation of Security

  • War II: War and Technology

  • Human Security

  • Environmental Security

  • Ethics: Desecuritisation and Emancipation

Preparation for first session