Toward a vernacular security studies: origins, interlocutors, contributions and challenges

Lee Jarvis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


This article seeks to situate, evaluate, and advance the recent “turn” toward the “vernacular” within security studies. It argues that vernacular security studies has significant advantages over alternative “bottom up” approaches. First, its conceptual emptiness allows for genuinely inductive research into public experiences, understandings, anxieties, and fears. Second, it offers engagement with a potentially far richer tapestry of everyday (in)securities by refusing to prioritize particular populations by virtue of their identity or sociopolitical position. And, third, such an approach avoids the universalism inherent within related, yet more explicitly cosmopolitan, approaches to security. The article begins by situating vernacular security studies within relevant intellectual and (geo-)political dynamics from the late twentieth century. A second section distinguishes this approach from six alternative traditions with a similar emphasis on individual human referents: human security, critical security studies, postcolonialism, feminism, ontological security studies, and everyday security studies. The article then elaborates on the significance and added value of vernacular approaches to security, before outlining core conceptual, methodological, and ethical questions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107–126
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number1
Early online date12 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Critical security studies
  • Everyday security
  • Feminism
  • Human security
  • International relations
  • Postcolonialism
  • Vernacular security

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