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Unit information: Secrecy, The State and Me in 2018/19

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Unit name Secrecy, The State and Me
Unit code POLI30018
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Van Veeren
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit considers the inter-relationships between secrecy, concealment and revelation, public and private, visibility and invisibility, security, surveillance, opacity and transparency, in connection with political rights and freedoms. Looking across cultures and historical periods this unit will critically engage with the concept of secrecy to explore its changing role in politics and society.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the changing and contested role that secrecy plays with relation to the state and to the citizen;
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role technology plays in our changing relationship to secrecy;
  • Evaluate different approaches to the analysis of secrecy.

Teaching details

10 x 3 hour seminar

Assessment Details

  1. 1,500 word essay (25%)
  2. 3,000 word essay (75%)

The assessments will evaluate all of the intended learning outcomes listed above

Reading and References

Barrett, D. V. (1999) Secret Societies: From The Ancient And Arcane To The Modern And Clandestine, Blandford Press. 

Bok, S. (1989) Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation Secrets, Second Edition, London and New York, Vintage Books. 

Goldman, J. & S. Maret, (2009) Government Secrecy: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Libraries Unlimited. 

Dean, J. (2002) Publicity's Secret: How Technoculture Capitalizes on Democracy, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Fenster, M. (2008) Conspiracy Theories: secrecy and power in American culture, Second Edition, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 

Finel, Bernard L. & Kristen M. Lord, Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). 

Roberts, A. (2006) Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Simmel, G. (1906) "The Sociology of Secrecy and of the Secret Societies," American Journal of Sociology 11: 441-498.

Tefft, S. (1980) Secrecy: A Cross Cultural Perspective, Human Sciences Press.