Date of Graduation

Fall 12-15-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Annick Wibben

Second Advisor

Brian Dowd-Uribe


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.