Tall Tales of Danger and Security: How a Critical Human Security Approach can Address Major Contradictions Revealed Through a Critical Narrative Analysis of Dominant U.S. Security Strategies


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Over many generations, humans have developed many perspectives and practices regarding the best ways to recognize and address what they perceive to be dangerous. Stories are used to help shape and narrate perceptions about the world, and they serve to pass on vital information that impacts how a society responds to threats and vulnerabilities. These narratives of danger and security are subjective to the experiences and political intentions of society, and therefore in many ways are partial and biased in their assessments and policies. This results in flawed security
practices that may actually exacerbate threats or create new insecurities. What this thesis examines is why the U.S. maintains harmful approaches to global security by contemplating how threats and insecurities are framed and discussed in the official narratives that guide their implementation.

Using a critical narrative analysis to examine the words, phrases, value assumptions, and intentions of the 2015 and 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS), I illuminate how the shaping of perceptions in dominant security narratives limits the effective response to security problems by
narrowing their assessments to militaristic and shallow analyses of the root causes of global insecurities. I then respond to the critical call for a broadening, deepening, and opening of security by expanding and applying Critical Human Security perspectives to the NSS in order to
diagnostically engage each strategy in the spirit of humanizing their assessments and to reimagine new possibilities. Ultimately, I argue that perspectives and words matter because of their function in impacting political realities, that the strongly political nature of security narratives inhibits their effectiveness, and that the end-goals of protecting human rights and international law are better realized when more inclusive assessments and nuanced security practices allow people to
comprehensively perceive and defend themselves from insecurity on all levels of society.

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures —————————————————————————————- v
Dedication, Acknowledgements, Notes ————————————————————————- vi
Chapter 1: Introduction —————————————————————————————— 1
The Context of Security ——————————————————————– 1
Motivation ———————————————————————————— 4
Notes on Critical Theory ——————————————————————- 7
Chapter 2: Securitas ———————————————————————————————– 10
The Self and Security ———————————————————————– 10
Society as Security ————————————————————————– 12
Sovereignty as Security ——————————————————————– 13
The Great Security Pivot ——————————————————————- 15
The United Nations, Human Rights, and a New Era for Security ——————– 17
The 1994 UN Human Development Program Report and Human Security ——– 20
The Human at the Heart of Security —————————————————— 26
Implementation and Added-Value of Human Security ——————————– 30
Major Criticisms of Human Security —————————————————– 34
Chapter 3: Securitas Hominum Critica ———————————————————————– 39
Critical Security Studies ——————————————————————– 39
Critical Human Security Concepts ——————————————————– 42
Call to Action: A Critical Human Security Framework ——————————– 47
Chapter 4: Storytelling and Narrative Research ———————————————————— 56
The Manufacturing of Meaning-Making ———————————————— 56
Subjectivity of Security Narratives ——————————————————- 58
Narratives of Danger and Security in a Dynamic World —————————— 60
Critical Narrative Research Methods: Studying Stories Suspiciously ————— 66
Diving In(words) —————————————————————————- 70
Chapter 5: Comparative Narrative Analysis: Why Words Matter ————————————– 72
Part One ————————————————————————————– 77
Part Two ————————————————————————————- 86
Chapter 6: Conclusion and Vision —————————————————————————— 109
References ———————————————————————————————————– 120


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Stephen Schneider

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