Security! What Do You Mean?: From Concept to Thick Signifier

Tuesday 29 March 2022

Huysmans, Jef. (June 1998) European Journal of International Relations 4, no. 2

This article analyses the nexus between theory and practical action. More specifically, Huysmans uses the term “thick signifier” to indicate a term whose definition is not implicitly given, but rather constructed; the specificity of a thick signifier, however, is that the discourse around its meaning directly shapes the action around the topic. In conclusion, according to Huysmans, it is important to ask ourselves how we define concepts, because our agenda depends on its definition. While Huysmans’ reflection on the importance of definitions is informed by Foucaultian’s prolific literature on the topic of socially constructed meanings and it is applied to security, this article can easily be applied to the field of peace studies as well, encouraging a reflection on how our individual choice on how we define peace theoretically is inherently influencing the way we visualise and operate on peace resolutions.


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