Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2005


Human Security

Lecturers: Associate Professor Oscar Salemink, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands &
Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo, Norway

Main disciplines: Social Anthropology, Sociology, Peace Studies

Dates: 25 - 29 July 2005
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 30 participants
 

 

Participants: Craig Albert, Susanne Alldén, Tatiana Barandova, Elisabeth Perioli Bjørnstøl, David J. Bosold, Rikke Broegaard, Maximilian Conrad, Erika Conti, Karen Marie Dalgaard Jeppesen, Daniela DeBono, Malene Freudendal-Pedersen, Sarah Iselin Frydenlund, Firouz Gaini, Nina Gren, Kathryn Harriman, Katrine Hartmann-Petersen, Geir Heierstad, Frøydis Jørve, Gunilla Kinn, Vladislav Kovalev, Bjørn Ivar Kruke, Anitta Kynsilehto, Laurie McIntosh, Edward Nanbigne, Lianita Prawindarti, Diana Quartiani, Nina Scherg, Riccardo Spadotto, Kirsti Stuvøy, Marianne Sætre, Sarvendra Tharmalingam. Lecturers: Professor Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Associate Professor Oscar Salemink.

 

Objectives
The course introduces theoretical traditions, approaches and concepts relevant to central topics in the study of human security defined broadly as encompassing the physical, political, economic and social sides of security as well as the existential, cultural and religious forms of security.

During the last decade, the concept of human security has become a rallying point for the re-conceptualization of (human) development in the face of perceived threats to stability and security. The course delves into the conceptual and theoretical aspects and possible limitations in the way that the United Nations Development Programme has coined the concept as 'freedom from fear and freedom from want'.

Taking its cue from policy documents, the course nevertheless emphasises (a) the need to examine the concept critically, (b) the need to study local conceptualisations of human security, and (c) the need to connect the concept of human security to general theoretical and analytical concerns in the social sciences.

The course focuses on the tensions between the human need of and forms of security, and the forces militating against their fulfillment (risk, change, ambivalence, uncertainty). The questions asked are politically urgent as well as intellectually challenging. The extraordinary interest in identity typical of this era - inside and outside the academy - is clearly connected to a sense of uncontrolled change and, often, loss and attempts to regain whatever has been lost. Europeans discuss national, European, regional, ethnic, immigrant, hybrid, gender, Muslim and many other identities; the situation is no less complex, although different, in many other parts of the world. Moreover, risks and uncertainties of unprecedented scope are facing humanity, regarding genetically modified (GM) food, genetic engineering, climatic change, global population growth and the accompanying migrations, and so on. So the question at the base of the course - How can human security be achieved in a globalising world? - can be extraordinarily fertile for comparative research founded in the detailed on-the-ground studies of social life that have been the hallmark of social anthropology since the early 20th century.

Interdisciplinary in outlook and based on a wide-ranging literature, the course develops a novel approach to the questions of human security, which emphasises comparison, methodological pluralism and a multifaceted conceptualisation of security.

 

Basic Readings

LECTURE OUTLINE:

Lecture 1: Defining human security
The term human security was introduced by the UNDP as late as in 1994, but the underlying concerns are as old as social science itself. In the context of this course, its contemporary usage and utility is nevertheless given priority, and the lecture concentrates on the general delineation of the term departing from the Commission of Human Security's statements.

Required readings:


Lecture 2: Globalisation and security
The weakening of the nation-state and the increasingly transnational nature of social relations, economic and political power, and cultural identities raise new challenges for communities everywhere. Some argue that globalisation in fact enhances the conditions for human security, while others hold the opposite view.

Required readings:

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 3: Globalisation and insecurity
A direct continuation of the previous lecture, this one looks closely at the critiques of globalisation, which argue that the forces of globalisation in fact run counter to security in almost every sense of the world.

Required readings:

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 4: Security, insecurity and the state
Ostensibly a guardian of the security of the citizens, the state can equally well be seen as a threat. The lecture discusses several examples which show the varying and complex relationship of the state to its unruly inhabitants.

 

Required readings:

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 5: Security and its opposites (i): Insecurity, violence, uncertainty
While it is obvious that security can be opposed to insecurity and uncertainty, the ways of trying to reinstate security in, for example, a situation of post-war reconstruction, are far from evident. The examples indicate a variety of strategies.

Required readings:

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 6: Security and its opposites (ii): Freedom
Less evident than insecurity, security can also be seen as the opposite of freedom. Security connotes collectivism and community; freedom is chiefly an individualist concept where the constraints imposed by community can be seen as impediments. The lecture explores tensions and trade-offs between security and freedom.

Required readings:

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 7: Security and its opposites (iii): Risk
Since the term 'risk society' (Risikogesellschaft) was coined by Beck in 1986, there has been increased public awareness, in rich societies as well as poor ones, of the risks entailed by social complexity and a volatile global scene. Examples range from food security to AIDS and ecological dangers.

Supplementary readings:


Lecture 8: Politics of human security (i): Identity politics
One of the main forms of political community, and a chief rationale for political action, in the contemporary world is that of identity politics - whether from above (usually in the form of nationalism) or from below. The lecture stresses the tension between commercialism, liberalism and individualism on the one hand and cultural/religious primordialism, communitarianism and collectivism on the other.

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Lecture 9: Politics of human security (ii): The "War on terrorism"
Based on an ongoing extended case (the global aftermath of nine-eleven), the lecture interrogates conceptualisations of security and risk in global public discourse.

Required readings:

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Lecture 10: Conclusions and some critical observations
Is the concept of human security going anywhere? Is it worthwhile to establish it as a general concept in the social sciences, or does it simply cover the same ground as other concepts? This final lecture will offer arguments and suggestions for essay writing.

Required readings:

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The Lecturers
Thomas Hylland Eriksen is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. He has written numerous books and articles on anthropology and other topics. In the period of 2004 - 2009 he will also be directing the strategic research programme titled Cultural complexity in the new Norway, a research programme initiated autumn 2004 at the University of Oslo.

Oscar Salemink is Associate Professor in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Amsterdam with a dissertation on the highland minorities of Vietnam. Current research concerns the politics and dynamics of religious revival in Southeast Asia, and the complex connections linking religion, civil society, natural resource management and development interventions. He has worked as Program Officer for the Ford Foundation in Thailand and Vietnam and has done short-term consultancies for multilateral organizations and for NGOs. CIDSE. Recent books include The Ethnography of Vietnam's Central Highlanders: A Historical Contextualization, 1850-1990 (2003), and Viet Nam's Cultural Diversity: Approaches to Preservation (and Colonial Subjects: Essays on the Practical History of Anthropology (co-edited with Peter Pels: 1999)
 

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