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Instructor: Charan Rainford

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Security2020POLS2020Security220202019 Security

This course introduces students to current theoretical and policy debates about the nature of ‘international security.’ In addition to addressing the meaning of this contested concept, we will examine three principal ways in which security has been organized by states, specifically: collective security, collective defence, and security communities.

Available in Summer 2021


The study of security is a dominant theme in International Relations (IR). In recent years, everything from China's rising, Nuclear proliferation, weak states, terrorist groups, the environment, diseases, organised crime and banking crises has become a security threat. What do these issues share to see them as threats? What constitutes a threat, and to whom? Competing, and, to some degree, ‘incommensurable’ theoretical traditions which ‘see’ very different worlds and types of security threats, have provided different kinds of explanations about whose security is at stake and what kind of threats are worth considering.  In this course, ‘security’ is treated as an essentially contested concept. We explore multiple meanings or interpretations of security drawn from competing IR perspectives (realism, liberalism, constructivism, critical theories), and we then investigate four cases from these perspectives.

The cases are:

  1. The rise of China
  2. The emergence of international norms around Humanitarian Intervention
  3. Terrorism
  4. The ‘securitisation’ of poverty and underdevelopment

Learning Outcomes

The main purpose of the course is to expose students to analysis of a number of pressing contemporary security issues, and the secondary purpose is to do so in a theoretically sophisticated way. This course, in short, will allow you to reflect upon your opinions about current security ‘concerns’, recognize that you may have approached the understanding of them with pre-existing biases. At the end of the course, students will be able to:
Recognize and interpret the key theoretical approaches to understanding international security;
Evaluate the differing contributions of the major theoretical approaches and critically analyze their ability to explain contemporary security challenges;
Differentiate between different forms of security – “international security”, “human security”, “state security”;
Sharpen reading, observation and discussion skills through active engagement in classroom discussions and experiential learning opportunities;
Deepen knowledge in contemporary cases of conflict and insecurity via the opportunity to present in-depth on a case and engage in a detailed research paper.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

Previous examples of ELOs for this course include a discussion with Commander Mitchell de Savoye, the Canadian Forces Intelligence Liaison Officer in London and a visit to Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker. The visit allowed the students visualize the conditions under which security and strategic studies developed theoretical approaches to account for the development of nuclear weapons.

Bader International Study Centre
Herstmonceux Castle
Hailsham, East Sussex
United Kingdom, BN27 1RN
Phone: +44 1323 834444
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Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment
Gordon Hall, 74 Union Street
Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Canada, K7L 3N6
Phone: (613) 533-2218
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