Syllabus

ENGL 488: CRITICAL SECURITY STUDIES — THE NEW WARS

Class Meetings: MWF 1115am-1205pm, Greenlaw 319

Instructor: Neel Ahuja (nahuja@email.unc.edu)

Office Hours: Mondays 1230-2pm, Greenlaw 419

 

OBJECTIVES

This discussion-based seminar explores the theory, practice, and public culture of transnational security, with a focus on emerging scholarship that critically analyzes state and media constructions of violence. Noting that many scholars, journalists, and defense analysts claim that wars and other forms of risk to established political and economic systems have fundamentally changed since the fall of the Soviet Union and, later, the 9/11 attacks, this course asks students to examine public debates over warfare, terrorism, and the cultural, economic, technological, environmental, and political changes that seem to make conflict proliferate globally. After evaluating theories describing what is “new” about systemic risk and violence in recent decades, the course will examine emerging military doctrines and practices, with a significant geographic focus on the United States, the Levant, the Persian Gulf States, and South Asia. Exploring journalism, fiction, film, television, and essays, we will discuss public explanations of the causes and consequences of conflict; aerial, digital, and environmental warfare; state surveillance and counterinsurgency; colonial land occupations and refugee crises; imprisonment, rendition, and torture; religious and ethnic violence; and the perspectives of prisoners, minorities, and refugees on emerging security regimes. Students will complete a major research paper and presentation on a topic of choice and will engage in regular classroom debate and discussion.

 

COURSE MATERIALS

Online materials: articles, links, and discussion blog on WordPress

Films on reserve at the Media Resources Center, Undergraduate Library:

  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Standard Operating Procedure
  • Your Bin Laden

Books available at the UNC Stores:

  • Yasmina Khadra, The Sirens of Baghdad
  • Nick Turse, The Changing Face of Empire
  • Zinn, Konopacki, and Buhle, A People’s History of American Empire
  • Eyal Weizman and Faisal Sheikh, The Conflict Shoreline

 

REQUIRED ASSIGNMENTS

Research Project. 65% of course grade. The project will develop over several assignments, each with instructor feedback. You must complete all elements of the project to pass the course.

  • Research Bibliography, Proposal, and Outline, 10% of course grade.
  • Initial 5-Page Writing Draft, 10% of course grade.
  • Revised/expanded Final Paper, 40% of course grade. Required paper length (not including bibliography): 13 pages for undergraduates, 17 pages for graduate students.
  • Creative or Informative Presentation of Research, 5% of course grade.

 

Final Exam. 10% of course grade. The final exam will review all lectures, readings, and viewings and may consist of a multiple choice and/or short-essay questions.

Class Participation. 25% of course grade.

  • Attendance. 5 absences=zero for participation; 6+ absences=F for course.
  • Speaking in Discussion. Discussion is the main mode of student engagement with the course topics throughout the semester. I expect all students to regularly contribute informed ideas and questions to our online and in-person discussions. In order to receive an A (or an H for graduate students), you should speak at least twice a week. Students who rarely or never speak in class will receive an F for this assignment.
  • Current events. I will make time at the beginning of select classes for discussion of relevant news items.
  • Discussion posts. Students must complete five 200-word reading responses, one for each segment of the course. Posts should raise key points for discussion in one or more reading(s) and connect them to broader course themes. Discussion questions may be part of the posts. Posts must be submitted by 7pm on the night prior to the class in which we discuss the reading. Completion of the five responses is required for a passing grade.

 

POLICIES

  • Devices: Use of computers, tablets, and cellphones is prohibited except for class sessions in which such use is explicitly authorized by the instructor. I do make exceptions in the event that a student needs a specific accommodation. Please contact both the instructor and Accessibility Resources and Service in the event you need any specific accommodation to help you better participate.
  • Conduct: Students are expected to respect each other as well as divergent viewpoints. Please adhere to the honor code and avoid all plagiarism (including rephrased ideas without citation or gleaning ideas from websites).

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