CAST Director, Professor
ow @ cast.ku.dk
Main Research Topics
Religion as Security Issue
What security dynamics are characteristic of situations where the threat is defined in terms of religion - either religion as the threat or religion as that which is threatened? How can insights from security theory and sociology of religion be combined to produce a better understanding of religion as a security issue? And on this basis, can we get a better grasp of the ‘big conflicts' around ‘the West', ‘Islam' and ‘secularism' as they play out mostly between and within the US, Europe and the Middle East? The theoretical ambitions of the project point to potential benefits for both security studies and the study of radical religious politics, while the empirical and policy oriented aspiration is to point to escalatory dynamics that could be mitigated with the help of conflict theory.
The History of the Concept of Security
The concept of security is often treated as a simple and self-evident one where conceptual struggles are over the modifiers and specifications - national security, collective security, human security, environmental security, etc. But the meaning of security as such has changed radically in the more than 2.000 years since its Latin emergence. Meanings have varied between positive and negative, objective and subjective, as well as state, individual and other ‘referent objects'. Exploring the history of the concept serves amongst other things to heighten awareness of the particularity of understandings assumed today, but also political imprints from structures and projects of different ages will become visible. In particular, the project will explore the emergence in the early 20th Century of security as a key value in society, the eruption in the 1940s of ‘national security' as a key concept in foreign affairs, and the possibility that the specific structure of security since then was shaped by a transferral of meaning from a raison d'etat concept running out of legitimacy with the democratisation of foreign policy. The project serves in the context of CAST and securitisation theory to historicise the particular security speech act.
Further work on the theory of securitization (the Copenhagen School) includes a radically revised edition of the 1998 key text by Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde, Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Various ‘reply to critics' articles will engage with issues like the ethics of security and security studies, de-securitisation and the explanatory status of the theory. The theory has spurned a surprising amount of applications as well as critical engagements, and it is therefore time to both re-state the theory, its main analysis of the sectors - military, economic, environmental, societal and political - as well as answer explicitly the critics, in many cases by specifying or developing the theory further. In addition, an underexploited potential of the theory for guidance in conflict resolution is to be explicated.
The Sociology of Security Studies
Security studies emerged in the years after world war two as a particular form of interdisciplinary, civilian expertise in a field previously reserved for military professionalism. The field professionalised, became largely subsumed into international relations / political science, and developed a complicated relationship to both academic theory and policy making. What social and cognitive structures did the field form at this intersection? What kind of intellectual field is security studies, how has it changed in recent years, and does it increasingly take distinct avenues in Europe, the US and maybe also other parts of the world?
Theories of Theory - and securitisation theory's kind of theory
The discipline of International Relations has been exceedingly unfocused in its discussions of ‘theory', never engaging explicitly in debates or explorations on the possible meanings of ‘theory'. The project on ‘theories of theories' has looked during the last year at two previous key episodes in the discipline - the birth of IR realism in the 1940s-50s in the US and its re-birth as neorealism in 1979 - in order to clarify the terms for a discussion of securitisation theory: is it a theory in the classical scientific sense, should it be, and what guidelines for improvements on the theory can be drawn from a more precise understanding of the nature and structure of theory in both natural and social sciences?
Climate Change as Security Issue
2007 saw climate change rise to a general status of international security issue - symbolically peaking when the UN Security Council met on April 17 over climate change and in October the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to IPCC and Al Gore. How will it influence the politics of climate change if the issue has been securitized? Securitization of climate change varies greatly in terms of referent object and the exact nature of the threat, most systematically between those who see it as a security issue only when climate change leads to conflict, and those who see climate change as a security issue in itself. How does this and other differences in the form of securitization condition its likely effects? Previously, most theorists within both security studies and environmental politics have warned against a security framing for environmental affairs, but today this seems to have changed. Is this due to a general change in security affairs, where inter-issue competition create conceptual inflation, or to changes in the perceived threat or to the politics of climate change - and what does this tell about potential benefits and dangers from ‘climate security'?
Current research topics
• Security Theory