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PIED5566M Critical Security Studies

Module manager: Dr Jack Holland

Taught: invalid View Timetable

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

The module offers an introduction to the major theoretical and empirical debates that structure the Critical Security Studies subfield. In the first half, the module is organised around core questions in Critical Security Studies, such as: what is security; security for whom or for what; security from whom or from what; how should security be achieved; and is security possible? In the second half of the module, these theoretical and normative approaches are applied to a range of relevant contemporary case studies.


The module aims to:

- provide students with an overview of the development of Critical Security Studies as an academic subdiscipline/subfield;
- assist students in further developing their theoretical vocabulary by introducing them to critical approaches to the study of security;
- challenge students to develop a critical approach to the study of security, questioning key assumptions and implications;
- introduce students to the thought and writings of seminal figures in Critical Security Studies;
- encourage students to read and critique the texts of those thinkers;
- enable students to analyse, understand and think critically about security issues of historical and contemporary significance;

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module students should be able to:
• demonstrate mastery of major debates in CSS, concerning both theoretical and substantive topic matter;
• demonstrate advanced familiarity with and critical engagement of central texts on key theoretical and empirical issues;
• be able to explain and present this knowledge and understanding in a persuasive and sustained way;
• analyse empirical security issues using a critical approach;
• critically evaluate security issues and policy using a critical approach;
• have the fundamental knowledge necessary to progress further into the subdiscipline/subfield of CSS.


The module is structured in two halves: (i) first, it considers core questions at the heart of CSS; before (ii) second, applying critical theoretical and normative approaches to a range of relevant contemporary case studies. This approach enables students to pursue a 'deepening' and 'broadening' of their understanding of security.
The first half of the module will be structured around key questions posed in Jarvis, L. and Holland, J. (2014) Security: A Critical Introduction, Palgrave. Relevant questions may include, 'what is security?', 'what can we know about security?', 'whose security should be prioritised?', 'is security possible? and, is security desirable?'.
The second half of the module will make use of relevant contemporary security issues, allowing students to apply a critical approach to the study of some of the most pressing security issues in the world today. Relevant examples may be drawn from specific (counter-)terrorism or (counter-)radicalisation efforts, migration, climate change and environmental security, health, or conflict (post 9/11 and post Arab Spring).

Private study

Students are required to read key texts before seminars in order to be prepared for seminar discussion. This requires careful and reflective reading, note-taking, as well as some additional exploration of secondary literature. This will involve the use of both reading lists and independent catalogue and database searches.
Seminars will be structured in 3 parts, with a division of labour on reading, designed to make it hard for students to 'free ride' and foster a peer culture of reading and discussion within the group.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students' progress will be monitored on a weekly basis by the following means:
1. Student contributions to seminar discussions (not assessed).
2. Assessment progress and preparation will be monitored by individual discussions with the module leader in academic support hours.
3. Compulsory essay preparation - 300-word introduction, 2-page bullet point plan, mini-bibliography of key texts. This will be due in week 6 and returned in week 7, with written feedback, as well as the opportunity for verbal feedback.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 12/12/2018 10:48:54


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