Skip to main content
School of Politics and International Relations

The Inaugural Lecture of Professor Jef Huysmans- How to be critical of security today?

When: Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Where: Peston Lecture Theatre, Graduate Centre, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End

Speaker: Professor Jef Huysmans (QMUL)

What do the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in the Ukraine, and climate change have in common? An understanding that politics, whether global, international, or planetary, are defined by struggles for survival. In each of these cases, delivering security intensely operates as the first and main objective of politics. Borders close to an unseen extend to protect human life from a global pandemic. European politics is being redefined through militarised geopolitical fears of threats to state survival. Calls for a planetary politics continue to intensify in reference to life on earth heading towards a catastrophic collapse. Security seems to truly be the baseline of contemporary political order. However tempting such a conception of politics is today, one of the defining challenges for critical engagements with security remains how to take war, environmental degradation and pandemics serious but without making security the defining point of view of social and political life.

‘Really? Is that a major challenge? Why would you want to be critical about security in these conditions that obviously call for a profound security response? And, even if you want to, how can you gain critical leverage on security in a world that seems saturated by insecurities of such international and planetary magnitude?’ The lecture will engage with these objections by revisiting developments in Critical Security Studies (CSS) since the 1990s and propose a post-critical analytic that fractures security by foregrounding a conception of life-in-motion rather than life-unto-death. In doing so, the lecture introduces an international political sociology of insecurity that seeks to challenge the grip that founding politics in death retains in contemporary politicisations of insecurity.

About Jef Huysmans

Jef Huysmans is Professor of International Politics. After finishing his PhD at the University of Leuven (Belgium), he took up a lectureship in International Relations and European studies at the University of Kent at Canterbury. Later he moved to the Open University where he taught politics and international relations and was Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance. He joined Queen Mary University of London in January 2016.

He is best known for his work on the politics of insecurity, the securitization of migration, critical methods in security studies and IR, and an International Political Sociology of fracturing worlds. Currently he is working on the impact of giving conceptual primacy to movement for critical security studies and the development of a post-critical international political sociology.

The inaugural lecture is followed by a wine reception.

To attend online, please register here:

Photo credit: “Dance of soul” by Ahmad Odeh []

Back to top