Critical Security Studies

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 3
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Politics and International Studies

Module overview

This module critically explores the international politics of 'security'. Its starting point is the recognition that the meaning of security - including whose security we are (or should be) talking about and what threatens this security - cannot be taken for granted.

This has not only generated heated debates among scholars, but also shifted attention towards how political actors talk about 'security' and justify actions in its name. Positioned within this critical strand, this module addresses the contested nature of 'security' and provides students with the conceptual tools to see and analyse various empirical sites and practices of 'securitization'.

Objectives and learning outcomes

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

  • See and understand practices of 'securitization' in different empirical contexts
  • Use the with conceptual and methodological approaches to analyze and critically assess the (international) politics of security
  • Present a reflexive and systematic account of the phenomenon in writing
  • Formulate and engage questions regarding the ethics of security politics


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with:

  • 1 hour lecture 
  • 1 hour tutorial 

Method of assessment

Assignment 1: Essay 20%
Assignment 2: Essay 80%

Suggested reading

  • Wolfers, A. (1952). “National Security” as an Ambiguous Symbol. Political Science Quarterly, 67(4), 481–502.
  • Barkawi, T., & Laffey, M. (2006). The postcolonial moment in security studies. Review of International Studies, 32(2), 329–352.
  • Buzan, B., Wæver, O., & Wilde, J. de. (1998). Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Lynne Rienner Publishers.
  • Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen (2009) The Evolution of International Security Studies. Cambridge University Press
  • Keith Krause and Michael C. Williams (eds) Critical Security Studies: Concepts and Cases (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1997)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.