ASTK15697U SUMMER17: The Syrian conflict: Emergent security phenomena and analytical approaches

Årgang 2017/2018
Engelsk titel

SUMMER17: The Syrian conflict: Emergent security phenomena and analytical approaches


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The conflict in Syria has gone on for over five years and has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. The conflict has been called “the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time” and it has caused heated political debates between local, regional, and global agents.


As the conflict has evolved, we have seen the emergence of a number of new security phenomena – such as foreign fighters, the rise of the Islamic State, and the refugee crisis – that fundamentally challenge both conventional political practices and traditional Security Studies approaches.


This summer school focuses on the Syrian conflict from a critical security studies perspective. By participating in the course, you will both 1) gain knowledge about the Syrian conflict and its “emergent security phenomena”, and 2) develop skills for analysing the new, complex dynamics of the conflict from a critical security studies perspective. The course is divided into three main teaching blocs:


1. The Syrian Conflict

Day 1: Introduction to the course and the Syrian conflict.

Day 2: The historical-sociological approach. Cultural, religious, and historical aspects and dynamics.

Day 3: The geopolitical and military-strategic perspective. Global and regional dynamics (Operation Inherent Resolve, the emergence of the Islamic State, and global/regional powers’ involvement (ex. the Saudi Arabia-Iran conflict, the USA-Russia conflict, and the role of Israel).


2: Emergent Security Phenomena

Day 4: Foreign Fighters (local and global dynamics, individuality, ’ummah’, differences/similarities between groups).

Day 5: Islamic State (the terror-campaign, the state-project, and the propaganda/virtual war).

Day 6: The refugee crisis (guest lecture).


3: Theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of emergent security phenomena

Day 7: Introduction to critical security studies: Rethinking key concepts (terrorism, violence, ethics, and war).

Day 8: Fieldwork and interviews.

Day 9: Discourse analysis, visual studies, and genealogy.

Day 10: Presentation and discussion of student projects.



  • Knowledge of the Syrian conflict (actors, history, and recent global, regional and local dynamics).

  • Knowledge of new and emergent security phenomena and dynamics in relation to the Syrian conflict (new forms of political violence and new types of actors, such as foreign fighters and the Islamic State).

  • Knowledge of critical security studies (including how critical perspectives challenge and diverge from traditional security studies).



  • Identify and analyse emergent security phenomena and dynamics.

  • Reflect on and discuss the broader relevance and implications of the emergent security phenomena (for politics and for academic research).

  • Formulate a research question related to the theme of the summer school; conduct an analysis using the course literature and relevant empirical material; present a coherent argument based on the analysis and reflect on its implications.

  • Critically discuss key security concept such as terrorism, violence, ethics, and war. Reflect on how a “rethinking” of these concepts may impact politics and security studies.

  • Training in academic presentations and how to comment on fellow students/colleagues’ work.



  • The course will provide the students with a solid basis for studying contemporary international conflicts, political violence, and terrorism from a critical security perspective.

  • Empirical knowledge of the Syrian conflict and emergent security phenomena.

  • A solid introduction to critical security studies.

  • Analytical skills relevant for the study of international security and international relations.

  • Theoretical knowledge of different approaches to the study of security.

This is a preliminary reading list. The readings will be divided into compulsory and suggested readings before the course starts.

Gilbert Achcar, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising, University of California Press, 2013, s. 172-188.

Emile Hokayem, Syria's Uprising and the Fracturing of the Levant, Routledge, 2013.

Reese Erlich, Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect, Prometheus Books, 2014

Yahya Sadowski, ‘The Evolution of Political Identity in Syria’, i: Identity and Foreign Policy in the Middle East, Shibley Telhami & Michael N. Barnett, Cornell University Press, 2002, s. 137-155

Fatma Muge Gocek, Social Constructions of Nationalism in the Middle East, SUNY Press, 2002, s. 1-13, 99-123

Richard T. Antoun & Donald Quataert, Syria: Society, Culture, and Polity, SUNY Press, 1991, s 13-63

Fred H. Lawson, Demystifying Syria, SOAS Middle East Issues, 2012

Tord Olsson, Elisabeth Ozdalga & Catharina Raudvere, Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives, Routledge, 2005, s 181-223

Mordechai Nisan, Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression, McFarland, 2002, s. 114-131

Bibi van Ginkel & Eva Entenmann, The Foreign Fighters Phenomenon in the European Union: Profiles, Threats & Policies, ICCT Research Paper, April 2016

Dr. Isabelle Duyvesteyn & Bram Peeters, Fickle Foreign Fighters? A Cross-Case Analysis of Seven Muslim Foreign Fighter Mobilisations (1980-2015), ICCT Research Paper October 2015

David Malet, ‘Why Foreign Fighters? Historical Perspectives and Solutions’, Orbis 54(1), 2009

John Borneman, Syrian Episodes: Sons, Fathers, and an Anthropologist in Aleppo, Princeton University Press, 2007, s 1-7, 128-149, 192-194

Priya Dixit & Jacob L. Stump, Critical Methods in Terrorism Studies, Routledge, 2015

Thierry Hentsch, Imagining the Middle East, Black Rose Books Ltd., 1992, s 59-65

Jacob L. Stump & Priya Dixit, Critical Terrorism Studies: An Introduction to Research Methods, Routledge, 2013

Claudia Aradau, Jef Huysmans, Andrew Neal & Nadine Voelkner, Critical Security Methods: New frameworks for analysis, Routledge, 2014

Mark B. Salter & Can E. Mutlu, Research Methods in Critical Security Studies: An Introduction, Routledge, 2012

Roland Bleiker, ‘Aestheticising Terrorism: Alternative Approaches to 11 September’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 2013, 49(3): 430-45.

Michael C. Williams, ‘Words, Images, Enemies: Securitization and International Politics’, International Studies Quarterly, 2003, 47(4): 511–31.

Ole Wæver, ‘Securitization and Desecuritization’. In: R. Lipschutz (ed.): On Security. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995, s. 46–86.

Barry Buzan & Lene Hansen, The Evolution of International Security Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.  Chapter 3.

Lene Hansen, ‘Theorizing the Image for Security Studies: Visual securitization and the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis’, European Journal of International Relations, 2011, 17(1): 51-74.

Cecilia Neumann & Iver Neumann, ‘Uses of the self: two ways of thinking about scholarly situatedness and method’, Millennium, online first, 2015.

Keith Krause & Michael C. Williams, ‘Broadening the Agenda of Security Studies: Politics and Methods’, Mershon International Studies Review, 1996, 40(2): 229-54.

Michel Foucault, ‘Nietzsche, genealogy, history’. In: Paul Rabinow (ed.): The Foucault Reader. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984[1971], pp. 76-100.

Lisa Wedeen, Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, second edition, 2015.

Helle Malmvig, ‘Eyes Wide Shut: Power and Creative Visual Counter-Conducts in the Battle for Syria, 2011–2014’, Global Security, 2016, 30(2): 258-78.

Simone Molin Friis, ‘Beyond anything we have ever seen: beheading videos and the visibility of violence in the war against ISIS’, International Affairs, 2015, 91(4): 725-46.

Charlie Winter (2015) ‘Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’’, Quilliam Foundation, http:/​/​​wp/​wp-content/​uploads/​2015/​10/​FINAL-documenting-thevirtual-caliphate.pdf

Xander Kirke, ‘Violence and Political Myth: Radicalizing Believers in the Pages of Inspire Magazine’, International Political Sociology, 2015, 9(4): 283-94.

Tobias Gemmerli, ‘RADICALISATION: a politically contrived concept’, DIIS Policy Brief, September, 2015.

Manni Crone, ‘Radicalization revisited: violence, politics and the skills of the body’, International Affairs, 2016, 93(3): 587-604.

Tim Aistrope, ‘Social media and counterterrorism strategy’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 2016, 70:2, 121-38.

James Der Derian, ‘From War 2.0 to Quantum War: The Superpositionality of Global Violence’, Australian Journal of International Affairs, 2013, 67:5: 570-85.

Charlie Winter & Jordan Bach-Lombado, ‘Why ISIS Propaganda Works: And why stopping it requires that governments get out of the way’, The Atlantic, February 13, 2016.

Lars Erslev Andersen, ’Kalifatet: På vej mod en totalitær stat?’. I: Carsten Jensen og David Vestenskov (red.) Et farvel til terror?Krigen mod ISIS 2014-2015. København: Forsvarsakademiets Forlag, 2015.

Aaron Zelin, ‘The War between ISIS and al-Qaeda for Supremacy of the Global Jihadist Movement’, Research Notes, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2014, 20.

Rosa Brooks, ‘Making A State By Iron And Blood’, Foreign Policy, http:/​/​​2015/​08/​19/​making-a-state-by-iron-and-blood-isis-iraq-syria/​

Ayman Al-Zawahiri (2005) ‘Letter from al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi’, ODNI News Release No. 2-05, October 11, 2005, http:/​/​​irp/​news/​2005/​10/​letter_in_english.pdf

Andrew Hosken, Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State. London: Oneworld Book, 2015.

David Kilcullen, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Neville Bolt, Violent Image: Insurgent Propaganda and the New Revolutionaries. London: C. Hurst & Co, 2012.

Roxanne L. Euben, ‘Killing (for) Politics: Jihad, Martyrdom, and Political Action’, Political Theory, 2002, 30(1): 4-35.

Mikkel Thorup, An Intellectual History of Terror: War, Violence and the State. London: Routledge, 2010.

al-Hayat Media, Dabiq, ’Break the Cross’, nr. 15, August 2016.

al-Furqān Media, ‘Healing the Believer’s Chest’, January 2015.

al-Hayat Media, ‘Sang pour sang/Blood for Blood’, April 2016.

We recommend that students only sign-up for the course if they have completed an International Relations or Global Politics course at the undergraduate level. Send us an email if you are in doubt about whether you live up to the criteria.

Knowledge of and interest in security politics and/or the Middle East is an advantage, but not a requirement.

Most importantly: A summer school is a short, intensive course, so we expect that students, who sign up for the course, are willing to study hard during the end of July and the beginning of August 2017
The summer school will last two weeks. Sessions will be mixed to maintain engagement, comprising lectures, group work, student presentations, guest lectures, take home exercises and case studies. Finally, we will participate in a seminar with international experts at the Danish Institute of International Studies (DIIS).
The written exam will not be graded. Passed/ not passed.

The students will receive supervision from the teachers and feedback from fellow students during the course.
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7,5 ECTS
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Passed/Not passed