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Pandemics and panics: health, security and global politics

In today's globalized world, a disease outbreak anywhere on the planet can spread worldwide in a matter of days. As well as causing illness and death, major outbreaks can inflict huge losses on national economies and require significant changes to our daily lives. Given this, it seems no wonder that governments have increasingly come to see diseases as security threats - a shift that has challenged traditional notions of 'security’ and has had dramatic implications for the ways health is addressed by national governments and international organizations.

In this module we take a detailed look at the ‘securitization’ of health, locating disease within the various contemporary approaches to Security Studies (including state-centric and human security-based approaches); examining the health issues that have most widely come to be seen as security threats (including pandemic influenza, AIDS, biological weapons and cutting-edge life science research); and critically examining media and policy responses to them.

The module takes a particular interest in the politics and ethics of securitizing disease, weighing the costs and benefits of addressing health issues in security terms. Does securitization make us safer? Does it help to draw much-needed attention and resources to otherwise neglected health issues? Or should we be worried about the potential implications securitization has for human rights, civil liberties and global justice?

The topics covered on this module include:

1. Disease and the state in historical perspective
2. Disease as a national and international security threat
3. Alternative securities: Globalism, human security and gender
4. Pandemics and global health security
5. Africa on the brink? AIDS, the military and state stability
6. Bioterrorism, biological weapons and life science research
7. Risk communication and the role of the media
8. The challenges of policymaking: preparedness or panic?
9. Surveillance, quarantine, victimisation: health security, human rights and civil liberties
10. What are we missing? Securitization and the distortion of the global health agenda
11. Learning lessons: Examining the fallout from Ebola


11 two-hour seminars


2 x 3,000-word essays

Optional Research Project Module

You also have the opportunity to deepen your knowledge by undertaking a supervised 7,000-word research project on a topic arising from the work done on Pandemics and Panics.

More about the Research Project module