Tag Archives: CSS

Some interesting links

Some interesting things we’ve come across this week:

  • America’s hip-hop foreign policy: an interesting read from the Atlantic discussing the role of rap in the war on terror. Apparently America is dealing with ‘jihadi rap’ by sponsoring ‘good muslim hip-hop’. The discussion of how rap has been used both to radicalise and in turn as a tool of diplomacy is particularly interesting.
  • Yugoslavia as science fiction: discusses art from the former Yugoslavia and the way in which it’s being viewed today, with a fascinating discussion of what this implies about the post-Yugoslav space today.


Acknowledgements: the first two pieces were kindly forwarded from @laurence_cooley and the last one was spotted via the always excellent @caiwilkinson!



Friday Links and Recommendations!

A few things we’ve spotted this week:

A review has found that the CIA made doctors torture suspected terrorists after 9/11, unethical practices continue.

There is a new very interesting Politics special issue on ‘Security and the Politics of Resilience’ (edited by James Brassett, Stuart Croft and Nick Vaughan-Williams). It asks: ‘what is resilience?’, ‘how did it emerge?’, and ‘what are the political effects of this emergence?’. The articles by Dan Bulley (Producing and Governing Community (through) Resilience), David Chandler (International Statebuilding and the Ideology of Resilience), and Lewis Herrington and Richard Aldrich (The Future of Cyber-Resilience in an Age of Global Complexity) look particularly interesting and are all well worth a read!

Critical Studies on Security also has a new special issue worth checking out, on ‘late warfare‘. The interventions section also includes a number of short articles about women in combat, including discussions on race and class, and discussions on women’s role in combat in different states. Cynthia Enloe’s reflections on combat vs ‘combat’ are likely to provoke some interesting thoughts.

Is securitisation theory dead? Thoughts from the 8th Pan European Conference in Warsaw

Having just returned from a great conference in Warsaw I feel like it’s a good time to sit down and write some thoughts down. The conference itself was very well organised – with a lot of interesting sections. Being part of the section on securitisation and politicisation, I inevitably attended quite a few panels on securitisation theory. It’s an area where a lot of interesting work is being done, but many discussions ended up in the same place – expressing increasing fatigue with securitisation theory itself. As a theory, it has been revised in so many ways that much of the work being done under the heading is unrecognisable from the original theory set out in Security: a New Framework for Analysis. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing – much of this work is all the better for it.

However, the endless need to revise securitisation theory to ‘fit’ an ever increasing number of empirical research areas increasingly calls into question the utility of the theory itself. As Claudia Aradau raised in one panel – perhaps it’s time to return to just looking at security practices instead? In many ways, critical work done in IR in the 1990s – pre-securitisation theory – was more rich and nuanced. David Campbell and Rob Walker come to mind, among others. While securitisation theory provides a rather neat framework for analysing how security works, with clear criteria and facilitating conditions to analyse, perhaps it’s a little too neat for actual empirical analysis. It has provided a lot of insight into how security ‘works’, but I’m increasingly sceptical of how useful it is for studying security in the real world. Perhaps it works better as a guide than a definitive theory.

In Warsaw, I heard it referred to both as ‘dead’, and as ‘passé’. Whatever your position, it is definitely increasingly contested. In my eyes, this can only be a good thing.

Review: Critical Approaches to Security

2013 has so far been a great year for anyone interested in critical approaches to security. With the launch of the new journal, Critical Studies on Security, and two new edited collections on the theory and methods of critical approaches, it is a good time for anyone who shares some kind of dissatisfaction with mainstream approaches and wants to study or research security from a critical perspective.

Research Methods in Critical Security Studies: An Introduction

cover-css1Mark B Salter and Can E Mutlu’s book Research Methods in Critical Security Studies: An Introduction is motivated by “a desire to champion clear research design and rigorous method in critical security studies” (p.1). Consisting of thirty four chapters by thirty three authors it is clear from the outset that this book covers a broad range of approaches to research methods from a critical perspective. This diversity reflects the fact that there is no single Critical Security Studies (CSS) method, something which can be unnerving for students and incomprehensible even for some scholars[i]. Although Research Methods in Critical Security Studies covers such a wide-ranging set of approaches to research methods, Salter and Mutlu have collected the chapters in to six sections which help guide the reader by grouping chapters into conceptual areas.

The first section of the book focuses on research design, and is perhaps the most universally useful part of the book. In the first chapter Mark Salter provides a concise introduction to research design from an interpretivist perspective, focusing on the principles of clarity, fit and reflexivity (p.15-24). This chapter comes with an extremely handy CSS research design checklist which will be useful to all levels of researcher; from undergraduates beginning their dissertations to senior academics writing papers and books for publication.

Other contributors in the opening section address the issues of wondering (p.25-28), criticality (p.29-32) and empiricism without positivism (p.42-45). Within this section are three other chapters that focus on issues that are sometimes ignored in methods textbooks. A chapter by Anne-Marie D’Aoust, on the emotional and material factors of actually having what it takes to do research (p.33-36), brings to light the often overlooked, but incredibly real issues that impact on how research within CSS, and also in IR more broadly, is conducted. Taken together, this introductory section not only frames the rest of Research Methods in Critical Security Studies but it also provides a great introductory platform for researchers to begin their research on security from a critical perspective.

The rest of the book is divided into sections that are organised around conceptual ‘turns’ within social sciences and CSS; ethnographic, practice, discursive, corporeal and material. In each section each methodological turn is given an introduction and then scholars whose work is associated with each turn talk about their research. In each chapter, authors address their research design in relation to their research question, methods, results and also the challenges they have faced whilst doing research. Accounts from acclaimed scholars such as Claudia Aradau, Luis Lobo-Guerrero and David Grondin sit well alongside work from up and coming PhD researchers within CSS.

Each chapter is only a few pages long and this brevity is perhaps the only downfall of Research Methods in Critical Security Studies. This is a minor annoyance rather than an actual problem, purely because most of the chapters provide such interesting accounts of research that as a reader you are often left wanting more! Further readings that are recommended at the end of each chapter go some way to addressing this issue, as does engaging with the actual published work of each author.

It is hard to take away an exact methodological framework from Research Methods in Critical Security Studies that is going to fit your own research ‘like a glove’. However, this is hardly surprising in a field like CSS where one can be interviewing sex workers at 2am in a Cuban nightclub as Megan Daigle has done (p.81), attending airport security management courses like Mark Salter (p.107) or looking at parliamentary archives in relation to counter-terrorism laws as Andrew Neal does (p.125). This diversity of original and interesting work within CSS is clearly highlighted in the book and it is extremely unlikely that one text book alone is ever going to provide you with clear answers to one’s own methodological problems, simply because there is no singular CSS method or methodology. Rather, there is a broad range of interesting methods and methodologies that suit the critical inquiry of security.

In this regard Research Methods in Critical Security Studies works well as a source of inspiration for readers interested in CSS as it not only shows how diverse the field is, but celebrates it as well. Moreover, it does exactly what it says on the tin by providing an introduction to research methods within CSS that students and scholars of every level should find interesting and useful.

Critical Approaches to Security: An Introduction to Theories and Methods

cover-css2Critical Approaches to Security: An Introduction to Theories and Methods by Laura J Shepherd is the second recent edited collection on the topic of critical approaches to security. Eschewing the moniker of CSS, Critical Approaches to Security collects together a variety of theoretical approaches and methodological techniques in two sections on theory and method.

Each chapter comes with a summary and learning outcomes section up front and is closed with questions for further debate and sources for reading and research. This, coupled with figures, images and break away boxes within most chapters, makes for a clear and lively read that will keep undergraduate readers engaged whilst dealing with complex topics such as Foucault’s key ideas (p.82) and the ‘anti-method’ of deconstruction (p.214).

The first half of the book explores various critical theories of security, providing a useful overview of each theory that helps the reader in understanding how different packages of ideas shape how security is understood and how theory in turn informs methodological choices.

The second half of Critical Approaches to Security addresses methods and how one can go about collecting and analysing data. Many of the chapters compliment and provide a more in-depth engagement with the methods explored in Research Methods in Critical Security Studies. For example if one is interested in ethnography, Cai Wilkinson’s chapter in Critical Approaches to Security (p.129-145) provides an engaging and detailed account of ethnographic methods whilst the section on the ethnographic turn in Research Methods in Critical Security Studies (p.51-84) highlights how these methods work in a variety of scenarios and research projects. This example is just one that emphasises that reading Critical Approaches to Security together with Research Methods in Critical Security Studies is the best way to make the most out of the two edited collections.

Critical Approaches to Security also includes two chapters on methods that are not touched upon in Research Methods in Critical Security. The inclusion of a chapter on what is often seen as ‘the Q word’ from a critical perspective; quantitative methods, enriches Critical Approaches to Security and goes some way to showing that the quantitative/qualitative divide is a false dichotomy (p.103-117). A further chapter by Cerwyn Moore and Chris Farrands on visual analysis is also a welcome addition that explores the ‘aesthetic turn’ in IR and security (p.223-235); a ‘turn’ that is not included in Research Methods in Critical Security.

As with Research Methods in Critical Security Studies, it is unlikely that you will be able to copy and paste what’s in Critical Approaches to Security on to your own work, but again this is because how you go about doing your research “is ultimately up to you, and there is no right answer” (p.8). What you will gain from Critical Approaches to Security is a clear introduction to several complex theories of security and a concise guide to how certain key research methods work in practice.


Both of these edited collections stand alone as great introductions to critical approaches to security that will be of interest to anyone who is remotely interested in these topics. For those of a critical disposition they will be a useful guide to studying or conducting research on security. For those who take a more traditional approach to the study of security, these two books will, at the very least highlight that the theories, methodologies and methods of critical approaches work extremely well in helping to understand the historic and contemporary dynamics of security broadly defined.

The strength of Critical Approaches to Security is in its depth and detail on critical theories, methodologies and methods. Together with Research Methods in Critical Security Studies, whose strength lies in its account of many different methods in the context of actual research practice, one is provided with a firm foundation for studying and researching security critically. Both books build upon other introductory CSS texts[ii], providing a more detailed account of critical methodologies and methods. As such both books are a welcome addition to a sub field of security studies that is seemingly no longer at the margins.

Rhys Crilley is a PhD doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham. His work draws upon critical approaches to security and focuses on images and narratives of conflict on social media platforms. He blogs at rhyscrilley.tumblr.com and can be followed on twitter @rhyscrilley.

[i] See Keith Krause’s 1998 article in Cooperation and Conflict on this topic. And although not in response to the lack of a CSS research program, see J.A Tickner’s 2005 article in ISQ to get an idea of how mainstream scholars fail to grasp the complexities of critical approaches with multiple ‘research programs’, methodologies and methods.

[ii] Other notable introductory texts to the critical study/research of security include seminal books by Ken Booth, Keith Krause and Michael C Williams. More recent introductory books on the topic include those by Karin Fierke and by Columba Peoples and Nick Vaughan-Williams.

This review was originaly published by e-International Relations and is republished here under a Creative Commons license. Read the original piece here.