SOAS University of London

Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

International Security

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

This module aims to introduce students to key themes and approaches in the study of international security. Although the module will familiarise students with orthodox thinking in the field of security studies, it pays particular attention to the perspectives of hitherto marginalised actors in the international system (Third World states, non-state actors, etc.) and to their interactions with hegemonic actors and structures. In addition it engages substantially with the agenda of 'critical security studies', which entails both a theoretical re-conceptualisation of what 'security' is and an empirical investigation of whether conventional security practices actually deliver.

The module focuses mainly on the post-Cold War period, but one of its central aims is to encourage students to historicise contemporary constructions of security and insecurity. It should be noted that this is not a module in 'strategic studies' – a field that is more narrowly concerned with the properties of particular weapons systems and their use and/or with the operational or tactical mechanics of particular wars. Instead, it aims to focus more broadly on the political, economic and social contexts in which force is used in international relations.

This module is available to all CISD students. The time of the lecture will rotate on a yearly basis: the 2017/18 session lectures will take place at 6pm.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The module aims to give students:

  • A knowledge of the key theoretical approaches to the study of international security 
  • An awareness of security policy and practice, particularly from the perspective of Third World states 
  • An awareness of the changing nature of the security agenda, particularly the increasing recognition of the importance of non-state actors and non-military threats 
  • An ability to historicise contemporary formulations of security and insecurity


The module will be taught over 20 weeks with one 1 hour lecture and one 1 hour tutorial per week.

Method of assessment

  • Exam (2 hours); 50%
  • Term Paper (1500 words); 25%
  • Term Paper (1500 words); 25%

Suggested reading

  • Tarak Barkawi & Mark Laffey, ‘The postcolonial moment in security studies’, Review of International Studies 32 (2006), 329-52.
  • Mohammed Ayoob, ‘The Security Problematic of the Third World’, World Politics 43 (1991), 257-83.
  • Christopher Cramer, Civil War Is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries (Hurst, 2006),  
  • Anne Orford, Reading Humanitarian Intervention: Human Rights and the Use of Force in International Law (Cambridge University Press, 2004),  
  • Cynthia Enloe, Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives (University of California Press, 2000)
  • Faisal Devji, Landscapes of the Jihad: Militancy, Morality, and Modernity (Hurst, 2005).
  • Robert Taber, War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare (Potomac Books, 2002
  • Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (Penguin, 1977).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules