King’s will be offering a Critical Securities Studies diploma and certificate program, the first of its kind in Canada, allowing students to study such diverse topics as terrorism, war and peace, security and dystopias.

“In the world around us, we hear about the fragility of security and how the state reacts to that fragility. The American President is regularly tweeting about security. Students have an awareness of this preoccupation with security and are looking for ways in interpret, analyse and understand this. Critical Security Studies helps stock their analytical toolbox,” says Dr. Benjamin Muller, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and program coordinator of Social Justice & Peace Studies.

Critical Security Studies will be offered at King’s as both a certificate and diploma program. Both programs require students to take five of the offered courses. The certificate program can be taken by undergraduate students while the diploma program can be taken by post-graduate students.

“There’s actually been more interest in the diploma than the certificate, which came as a surprise,” says Dr. Muller. “I’ve even had former students tell me they are thinking of staying for another year to take the diploma course. We’ve also seen interest from students from the wider Western campus.”

“As a field, Critical Security Studies has been around since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and as a discipline, it was a response to the Cold War,” says Dr. Muller. “But, as far as I know, there is nothing else like this in Canada, offering an undergraduate certificate in Critical Security Studies.”

Dr. Muller says successful graduates of the course could work with CSIS, the RCMP, CBSA, NATO or Interpol, as well as a number of NGOs and in academia. Critical Security Studies has also drawn interest from those who want to study non-government agency advocacy, the legal field, border security, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) aviation security, or environmental or Indigenous issues.

The Critical Security Studies came about when Dr. Muller and Dr. Derek Silva, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, realized that there was overlap in a number of courses offered at King’s, “we put our heads together and then put a call out for courses,” says Dr. Muller. Initially it was to be a certificate course, but they were encouraged by the College to also offer it as a diploma program.

Those enrolled in Critical Security Studies will be able to take a wide range of courses including History 2133F/G, Cults, Terror and Extremism in 20th Century America, Sociology 2200E Sociology of ‘Race’ and Racism, Social Justice and Peace Studies 3367 F/G Exile and Forced Migration, Sociology 2239 Social Inequality, Psychology 2301 A/B Psychology and Law, and English 2073 F/G Speculative Fiction: Utopias and Dystopias.

In addition to teaching Political Science/Sociology 3387 F/G Surveillance, Security and Society this May as an intersession course, Dr. Muller will also be teaching Political Science 3361 F/G American Borders and Borderlands again in 2020. 

Last February, Dr. Muller and Dr. Silva, took students from the American Borders and Borderlands course on an experiential learning trip to the Arizona/Sonora, Mexico border.

“It was a great experience for the students, a bigger experience than they expected,” says Dr. Muller. The students noticed that on the U.S. side “it looks like a warzone” with barbed wire and a military presence while things seemed more normal on the Mexican side.

While not every course will include travel, there will be elements of experiential and hands-on learning in many. For example, students will investigate surveillance in their day-to-day lives. Dr. Muller says he is “pleasantly surprised” by the response to the exercise of students watching how they can be under surveillance. “It gets people thinking differently about security.”

In 2005, Dr. Muller received his PhD in International Studies from Queen’s University Belfast, UK. He has authored multiple peer-reviewed books, articles, and chapters on issues related to borders, sovereignty, technology, and identity.

Dr. Silva received his PhD in Sociology from the University of South Carolina, USA. He has authored a number of edited collections and peer-reviewed journal articles on issues related to terrorism and radicalization, knowledge mobilization, social media, hockey and national identity, and the role of expertise in “scouting” prospective athletes.