SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Human and Critical Security Studies

Module Code:

The Human and Critical Security Studies elective examines the meanings, mechanisms and agents of security, acknowledging shifts from the traditional notion of national security to forms of Human Security and critiques of the state. This module investigates processes and phenomena that pose direct threats to groups of people and, in doing so, potentially destabilise or aggravate situations. Famine, the oil trade and AIDS undermine people physically, politically and psychologically, and on occasions result in further forms of insecurity as people resist, retaliate or take advantage of volatile situations. Your study will also incorporate analysis of contingent – and differentiating – social factors such as age, gender, class and identity and the way that these shape and are shaped by experiences of security.

Academic literature is derived predominantly from Development Studies, Political Science and International Relations. This provides varied analysis of the nature and function of security policy, including policies relating to human security. In addition, there is a rapidly expanding academic literature linking specific threats to processes of vulnerability, insecurity, terror and globalisation which is accompanied by literature by pressure groups working on the issues concerned with AIDS, famine, corporate responsibility, the environment and human rights. The UN, itself heavily involved in forging the meanings of security, has produced documents relating to health, climate change and other elements covered in the course.

For on campus students wanting to select this module, please note you will not be able to select this and 15PDSH020 as this is a restricted combination.

Topics include:

  • Theorising critical security
  • Human security: freedom from fear/ freedom from want
  • Famine and food security
  • Citizenship & the state
  • Migration
  • Private security: hired guns & gated communities
  • Oil economy
  • The ‘development project’ and the security agenda
  • The HIV/AIDS pandemic
  • Climate change
  • Terrorism in the Global South
  • Diplomacy and the majority world

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  • Understand and elaborate on concepts from critical and human security studies;
  • Identify and examine non-military processes and phenomena affecting security;
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how various forms of security interact;
  • Explain the roles of a diverse set of actors operating in the field of security;
  • Analyse ways in which security is differently experienced between and within groups;
  • Assess risks and vulnerabilities within security agendas;
  • Deploy academic, UN and pressure group literature on security in constructing arguments.


Teaching takes place online through a weekly discussion.

Method of assessment

100% coursework.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules