MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Critical Approaches in International Politics

Unit code POLI70412
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course develops students’ abilities to think critically about key themes in international politics. It builds on the introduction to the discipline of International Relations provided by The Graduate Seminar in International Relations Theory. The aim is to introduce students to what it means to think critically about international politics as well as the work of key critical thinkers. Starting with Foucault's writings on the critical ethos, the course examines the ways in which it is possible to think critically about topics (such as power, subjectivity, space, resistance, hospitality and ethics).

The course combines three aims:

1. To foster the ability to think critically about international politics

2. To understand the work of key critical thinkers (such as Foucault, Butler, Derrida, Fanon, Lacan, Campbell, Ranciere)

3. To apply critical thinking to empirical issues in international politics.

This course is not simply a survey of critical thinkers, but rather a bridge between the Graduate Seminar in International Relations Theory and the MA Dissertation, examining the way in which key thinkers have thought about topics in international relations and encouraging students to translate these insights and provocations into their own research on international politics.


This course will be a core course for the MA in International Politics (both research and taught routes).

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly contact hours will consist of one two-hour seminar each week.

Knowledge and understanding

Advanced level of understanding and knowledge of the key debates and theoretical positions within international politics, and how theories relate to the analytical approaches selected.

Intellectual skills

Display an ability to engage in thinking and reasoning; an ability to analyse and critically engage with other people’s position; and to work independently to identify appropriate further reading.

Practical skills

Literature searches and critical reading.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Advanced cognitive and communicative skills; the ability to present reasoned and effective arguments in written and oral form; the ability to pursue an advanced level of independent learning and to show critical judgement.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

Assessment task

Length required

Weighting within unit

Structured Seminar Engagement



Final essay.

2750 words



Recommended reading


  • Aradau, C, Huysmans, J Neal, A and Voelkner, N eds., Critical Security Methods: New Frameworks for Analysis (London: Routledge, 2015)
  • Edkins, Jenny and Nick Vaughan-Williams (eds.) Critical Theorists and International Relations (London: Routledge 2009)
  • Shapiro, J. Michael, Studies in Trans-disciplinary Method: After the Aesthetic Turn (London: Routledge, 2012)
  • Salter, Mark and Mutlu, Can E, eds., Research Methods in Critical Security Studies (London: Routledge, 2013)