Critical Security Studies

Course Description: 

Core course for IR track students.

This course, which is taught at both the PhD and MA levels, is concerned with how the so-called ‘critical turn’ in International Relations has been reflected specifically in thinking about Strategy and Security.
‘Critical Security Studies’ is, in its broadest sense, a collection of approaches all united by a profound dissatisfaction with so-called ‘traditional’ security studies. Critical Security Studies seeks to question, though not always completely do away with, the foundations upon which the dominant state-centrism and military-centrism is built.
This course deals with a number of these approaches: from the ‘conventional’ constructivists, through the ‘Copenhagen’ and ‘Aberystwyth’, or ‘Welsh’, Schools, to more ‘critical’ constructivist positions. In doing so, not only does it seek to illuminate the main theoretical assumptions underpinning each of the various approaches, but also to explore just how they are ‘critical’; that is, in what ways they challenge traditional security studies, and in what ways they compare and contrast with each other. While the course is mainly theoretical in its orientation, much emphasis is also placed on empirical application; how, and to what kind of cases, each of the approaches can be profitably applied.


Each student will be assessed through a combination of seminar contribution, oral presentation, and written work.

    For MA students, the requirement is two literature reviews and one research paper. The literature review is 1,500 words long (plus/minus 10%); the research paper is 4,000 words long (again, plus/minus 10%), and can be, if chosen, an extension to one of the prior literature reviews. For the final grade: 25% is given to each literature review (40%); 50% to the research paper; with the remaining 10% being allotted to seminar attendance and contribution.

    For PhD students, the requirement is three in-class, oral presentations and three literatures review. The literature review is 3,000 words long (plus/minus 10%). For the final grade: 30% is given to each oral presentation and literature review taken as a whole (60%); with, again, the remaining 10% being allotted to seminar attendance and contribution.

    For MA Students, the First Literature Review is due at the end of week 5; the second at the end of week 9. All other deadlines for assessed work will be established in the first, introductory seminar.

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