BASS Politics and Sociology / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
The Politics of (in)Security

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI20332
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What is security? Who is secure? What does it mean to be secure? Who is (are) the agent(s) of security? These are the central questions framing broader debate in international politics following the end of the Cold War and as such they frame this course. This course specifically considers the shift from traditional to critical security studies and with it the broadening of security to include new issues – such as gender, migration and environment – as well as the deepening of security beyond a focus on states to focus on individuals and the international community.  The course is divided into two sections: the first section looks at how security studies has been broadened and deepened and the manner in which 'security' has been re-defined as a result; the second section looks at a range of new security issues/threats in contemporary society as well as looking at new approaches to traditional security issues/threats in contemporary society.




The course unit aims to:

• Explore in general debates surrounding ‘security’

• Consider specifically the shift from traditional to critical security studies and the opening in the intellectual field of security studies through which a growing body of scholars, disillusioned by the politics of the Cold War, have sought to challenge the assumptions underpinning dominant discursive understandings of what security means

• Consider a range of new security issues and new security threats in contemporary society.

• Introduce students to a disparate body of scholarship (Poststructuralism, Feminisms, Critical Theory, Postcolonialism, Constructivism, Critical Geopolitics) sharing similar critiques of orthodox security studies.

• Consider the need to foreground how theory isfundamentally intertwined with the practice of security.

• Develop students’ oral skills(through general discussion), team-work skills (through small and larger group discussions), written skills (through the assessed essay and article analysis).

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

• An ability to discuss what is at stake in security both as a theoretical concept and as an ontological category

• A critical understanding of how security has been rearticulated and challenged in our contemporary context through an engagement with some of the most pressing security issues of the day

• an ability to develop and defend an original argument

• an ability to apply the arguments and approaches studied to real and hypothetical cases.

• an ability to present research findings in written form at a 3rd year undergraduate level

• oral, teamwork, written, and research skills.

Assessment methods

The assessment for this module in 2020-21 has 2 elements

1.    A 1,850 word Article Analysis (30%)

2.    A 2,850 word Essay (70%)




Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

  • Shepherd, Laura J. (ed.) Critical Approaches to Security: An Introduction to Theories and Methods (Routledge, 2013). Available as an ebook in the library.
  • Vaughan-Williams, N. and Peoples, C. Critical Security Studies: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2010 (first edition), 2014 (Second edition). Available as an ebook in the library.
  • Williams, Paul. D (ed.) Security Studies: An Introduction (Oxford University Press) 2008 (First edition), 2012 (second edition) Available as an ebook in the library.
  • Hansen, L and Buzan, B. (2009) The Evolution of International Security Studies (Cambridge University Press).


Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jennifer Hobbs Unit coordinator

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