Dr. Lee Jarvis explains the focus of the University of East Anglia’s masters degree in International Security.
The academic field of Security Studies was once famously summarised as ‘the study of the threat, use and control of military force’ (Walt 1991). Why, in other words, do countries go to war with one another? What, if anything, might be done to prevent this (and – crucially – by whom)? And, how do new technologies – such as drones – affect the ways in which war is fought? Questions such as these have been central to discussions of International Security for a very long time. They go back not only to the formation of International Relations as an academic discipline in the early twentieth century, but also to the canonical writings of philosophers and theorists of warfare, violence and politics such as Carl von Clausewitz, Thomas Hobbes, Machiavelli and Thucydides.
While understanding war remains vital to any engagement with the key dynamics of international security today, two issues are worth bearing in mind here. The first is that war itself changes dramatically over time. Most conflicts today are fought within, rather than between, countries; many belligerents within these conflicts – terrorist groups, private security corporations, criminal gangs – are not countries at all; and much of the harm caused by contemporary wars is suffered not by professional soldiers, but by civilians – in terms of body counts, internal displacement, refugeeism, and human rights violations and so forth. To study military conflict successfully, then, we need to take these changes seriously as well as the differences between different types of war. The second issue worth reflecting on is that the most pressing security threats faced by the majority of people around the world today are not linked to the threat of war at all. Instead, they are a product of other causes of harm such as poverty, famine and malnourishment, disease pandemics, environmental degradation, domestic abuse, or inadequate access to education and healthcare. This is why many contemporary perspectives on International Security argue for a ‘broader’ approach to this topic that goes beyond the activities of states and their militaries. In making these arguments, approaches such as feminism, post-colonialism and Critical Security Studies also force us to think far more carefully about what ‘international security’ actually means, how it might be achieved, whether it is possible, and whether it is actually even a good thing.
Our Masters degree in International Security introduces students to these and related controversies. Over the course of the year, we grapple with a range of contemporary security issues – from climate change through to war and non-state terrorism – and engage with a diversity of theoretical approaches that might help further our understanding of these and other issues. Students on the course are able to take part in simulations to learn about the mechanics of diplomacy and statecraft, to participate in small-group tutorials based on detailed readings of seminal texts, to take part in screenings, seminar discussion and debate, and to write a detailed research dissertation guided by an academic supervisor. Students have access to a wide range of optional modules, and to a vibrant academic community that includes expert academic staff with a range of interests that span security, foreign policy, conflict and warfare.
If you would like to know more about the MA in International Security please take a look at our website here. Alternatively, feel free to contact the course organiser, Dr. Lee Jarvis on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lee Jarvis is a Senior Lecturer in International Security at UEA, and organiser of the MA in International Security. His books include Security: A Critical Introduction and Cyberterrorism: Understanding, Assessment and Response.