SOAS University of London

Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy

International Security

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

This module aims to introduce students to key themes and approaches in the study of international security. The module 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. 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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • 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

• Assessment one (1500 words); 25%
• Assessment two (1500 words); 25%
• Unseen written examination; 50%

Suggested reading

• Barry Buzan & Lenn Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies (2009).
• Li, Mingjiang & Kemburi, Kalyan M., China’s Power and Asian Security (2014).
• Wu, Shicun & Zou, Keyuan, Non-Traditional Security Issues and the South China Sea (2016).
• Paliwal, Avinash, My Enemy’s Enemy: India in Afghanistan from the Soviet Invasion to the US Withdrawal (2017).
• Hough, Peter, et al, International Security Studies: Theory & Practice (2015).
• Dalby, S. Security and Environmental Change (2009).
• Lekunze, Manu. Inherent Contemporary Challenges to African Security (2019).
• John Baylis, James J. Wirtz & Colin S. Gray eds., Strategy in the Contemporary World (Oxford University Press, 2010).
• Bilgin, Pinar. Regional Security in the Middle East: A Critical Perspective (2nd ed., 2019).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules