Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

Making sense of the social world



I’m a sociologist of risk. I’m fascinated by the changing ways in which we make sense of, manage and communicate the risks and uncertainties. But I’m interdisciplinary in my approach, and work with lawyers, historians, psychologists and others similarly interested in how we understand and manage what might happen across a wide range of issues and concerns.

I completed my PhD on the ‘story’ of health concerns about mobile phones at Kent. After jobs at the universities of Reading, Bath, Westminster and Brunel I returned to Kent in 2004. I’m a research fellow at the Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation at the LSE and was a visiting fellow at Princeton in 2015.

Outside of work I’m a fan of crime fiction, new music and cinema…and Liverpool Football Club. I live with my partner, 3 sons (and beagle!) in Faversham, Kent.

Contact Information


Room CNE 115
Cornwallis North East
University of Kent
Kent CT2 7NF

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

Burgess, A. (2019). Environmental Risk Narratives in Historical Perspective: From Early Warnings to 'Risk Society' Blame. Journal of Risk Research [Online]. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2017). Individualization revisited: Global family developments, uncertainty and risk. Journal of Risk Research [Online] 21:83-95. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2017). The Development of Risk Politics in the UK: Thatcher's 'Remarkable' but Forgotten 'Don't Die of Ignorance' AIDS Campaign. Health, Risk and Society [Online] 19:227-245. Available at:
Mythen, G., Burgess, A. and Wardman, J. (2017). The prophecy of Ulrich Beck: signposts for the social sciences. Journal of Risk Research [Online] 21:96-100. Available at:
Burgess, A., Miller, V. and Moore, S. (2017). Prestige, Performance and Social Pressure in Viral Challenge Memes: Neknomination, the Ice-Bucket Challenge and SmearForSmear as Imitative Encounters. Sociology [Online]. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2013). Missing the Wood for the Trees? European Journal of Risk Regulation 2:287-291.
Burgess, A. (2013). Manufacturing Uncertainty out of Manufactured Sweeteners: The Curious Case of Aspartame. European Journal of Risk Regulation 3:377-381.
Burgess, A. (2012). An Experimental Offensive against the Mishandling of Risk in Society': Reflecting on the Pioneering Work of the Risk Regulation Advisory Council in the UK. European Journal of Risk Regulation 3:343-351.
Burgess, A. and Horii, M. (2012). Risk, ritual and health responsibilisation: Japan's 'safety blanket' of surgical face mask-wearing. Sociology of Health & Illness [Online] 34:1184-1198. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2012). Nudging' Healthy Lifestyles: The UK Experiments with the Behavioural Alternative to Regulation and the Market. European Journal of Risk Regulation 1:3-16.
Burgess, A. (2012). Media, Risk, and Absence of Blame for "Acts of God": Attenuation of the European Volcanic Ash Cloud of 2010. Risk Analysis [Online] 32:1693-1702. Available at:
Horii, M. and Burgess, A. (2012). Constructing sexual risk: 'Chikan',collapsing male authority and the emergence of women-only train carriages in Japan. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 14:41-55. Available at:
Moore, S. and Burgess, A. (2011). Risk rituals? Journal of Risk Research [Online] 14:111-124. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2011). Fukushima Fixation – The Media Focus on Radiation Risk in Tsunami-Stricken Japan. European Journal of Risk Regulation 2:209-212.
Burgess, A. (2011). Thinking culturally about risk. International Journal of Law in Context [Online] 7:249-256. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2011). The changing character of public inquiries in the (risk) regulatory state. British Politics [Online] 6:3-29. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2010). Media risk campaigning in the UK: From mobile phones to 'Baby P'. Journal of Risk Research [Online] 13:59-72. Available at:
Burgess, A., Donovan, P. and Moore, S. (2009). Embodying Uncertainty? Understanding Heightened Risk Perception of Drink 'Spiking'. British Journal of Criminology [Online] 49:848-862. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2009). The politics of health risk promotion: 'Passive drinking': A 'good lie' too far? Health, Risk & Society [Online] 11:527-540. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2008). Revisiting the BSE experience: Hindsight and the politicization of food. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 10:195-200. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2007). Mobile phones and service stations: Rumour, risk and precaution. Diogenes [Online] 54:125-139. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2007). Real and phantom risks at the petrol station: The curious case of mobile phones, fires and body static. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 9:53-66. Available at:
Alaszewski, A. and Burgess, A. (2007). Risk, Time & Reason. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 9:349-358. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2006). The making of the risk-centred society and the limits of social risk research. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 8:329-342. Available at:
Derbyshire, S. and Burgess, A. (2006). Use of mobile phones in hospitals. British Medical Journal [Online] 333:767-768. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2006). The Shock of a Social Disaster in an Age of (Nonsocial) Risk. Space and Culture [Online] 9:74-76. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2003). A precautionary tale: the British response to cell phone EMF. Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE [Online] 21:14-16. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2002). Comparing National Responses to Perceived Health Risks from Mobile Phone Masts MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Health, Risk & Society [Online] 4:175-188. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2001). Flattering Consumption: The Growth of Consumer Rights and Product Safety Concerns in Europe MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Journal of Consumer Culture [Online] 1:93-117. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2001). Universal Democracy, Diminished Expectation MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. Democratization 8:51-74.
Burgess, A. (1997). Writing off Slovakia to "the east"? Examining charges of bias in British press reporting of Slovakia, 1993–1994. Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity [Online] 25:659-682. Available at:
Burgess, A. (1996). National Minority Rights and "Civilizing" Eastern Europe. Contention 5:17-37.
Burgess, A. (2010). The Contemporary Emergence of Health Concerns Related to Mobile Phones. [Online]. VDM Verlag. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2003). Cellular Phones, Public Fears and a Culture of Precaution. MacLachlan, I. and Syrontinsky, M. eds. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Burgess, A. (1997). Divided Europe: The New Domination of the East. [Online]. Pluto Press. Available at:
Book section
Burgess, A. (2015). The Social Construction of Risk. in: Cho, H., Reimer, T. and McComas, K. A. eds. The SAGE Handbook of Risk Communication. SAGE Publications, Inc, pp. 121-139. Available at:
Burgess, A. (2011). Representing emergency risks: Media, Risk and 'Acts of God' in the Volcanic Ash Cloud. in: Allemano, A. ed. The Challenge of Emergency Regulation - Beyond the European Volcanic Ash Crisis. London: Edward Elgar, pp. 65-80.
Burgess, A. (2008). Health Scares and Risk Awareness. in: Wainwright, D. ed. A Sociology of Health. London: SAGE Publications Ltd, pp. 56-75.
Burgess, A. (2007). Risk Perception of Mobile EMF,. in: Nishizawa, M. ed. Mobile EMF and Communication – International Perspectives. Tokyo/Tsukuba: National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention.
Burgess, A. (2006). The Impact of the Wider Social and Institutional Environment on Risk Perception. in: del Pozo, C. ed. Risk Perception and Risk Communication: Tools, Experiences and Strategies. European Commission Directorate General Joint Research Centre.
Burgess, A. (2006). Risk, Precaution and the Media. in: Richter, I. K., Berking, S. and Muller-Schmid, R. eds. Risk Society and the Culture of Precaution. London: Routledge.
Burgess, A. (1998). European Identity and the Challenge from South and East. in: Hedetoft, U. ed. Political Symbols, Symbolic Politics: Between European Unity and Fragmentation. Aldershot: Avebury, pp. 209-226.
Burgess, A. (1998). Historical Reflections on the International Enforcement of Minority Rights in Europe. in: Cordell, K. ed. Ethnicity and Democracy in the New Europe. London: Routledge, pp. 49-61.
Total publications in KAR: 43 [See all in KAR]


Further papers can be viewed at

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Research Interests

There are three main strands to my work at the moment.

Firstly, historical perspectives on how the language and institutions of risk evolved historically, looking at areas such as reactions to environmental events and life insurance.

Secondly, contemporary behavioural responses to perceptions of risk; I am beginning a project on the growing trend for people to abstain from the consumption of meat, alcohol and gluten, for example.

Thirdly, I’m also concerned practically with improving how risk is communicated and understood, and have engaged with various projects over the years.

My most recent articles concern environmental risk narratives, individualism and risk, and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, that stimulated my original interest. These can all be viewed on the publications page or on Kent

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I have taught introductory courses on risk and society for nearly 20 years. In 2018 I am teaching a new module on individualisation. In addition, I teach an MA module on risk and undergraduate lectures on health and introductory sociology.

Current PhD students:

  • Changes in the UK Media Reporting of Risk Since the 1980s (Martin Rooke)
  • A new way of eating: creating meat reducers, vegetarians and vegans (Trent Grassian)
  • A comparative analysis of food risk and regulation in South Africa (Joy Malebo)
  • Negotiating the boundaries of Internet Privacy (Hayley Finnemore)
  • Visual and aesthetic dimensions of risk (Francesca Cavallo)

I am willing to consider PhD supervision on any topic I find interesting, but particularly welcome projects looking at risk-related topics, or individualisation, in a comparative or historical perspective.

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I’ve spoken at over 60 international conferences on risk-related subjects, including keynote addresses. I am on the board of the risk and uncertainty thematic group of the International Sociological Association and welcome interest from others who might like to be involved.

I have provided advice to various risk related initiatives over the years, such as the Risk Regulation Advisory Council, the National Cyber Security and NESTA. I’m currently convening a group of experts providing input into a new initiative, ‘Collaboration to explore new avenues to improve public understanding and management of risk’ (CAPUR), organised by the science and media institute, Atomium.

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My research is regularly covered by various media. For example I was interviewed about my work on Japanese flu mask wearing for BBC World Service, Radio 4 and Radio New Zealand in April 2013. In June 2013 I was interviewed about risk and electronic cigarettes for BBC Radio.

I was interviewed on drink spiking research by various radio stations such as Radio 4’s The World Tonight and many other BBC stations. It was covered by print media such as the New York Times , Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail . The study was identified by the British Academy as an example of how ‘rigorous, evidence-based research projects can inform social policy’ in their 2010 report on The Public Value of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

In January 2009 my work was cited in articles on technological risk in the Guardian and the Times. In June 2005 I appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme speaking about scientific uncertainty and on Radio 5 Live about public restrictions on mobile usage.

My research on rumours in March 2005 was covered by the national and international media including the Economist, BBC Online, the Observer, Independent on Sunday, as well as the tabloids and many local, regional and international newspapers and websites. I also appeared on BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio 5 Live. In January 2005 I appeared on BBC News 24, BBC Online, BBC Asian Network; BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio 5 Live; BBC Radio London etc. International media such as Australian and South African radio, and Dutch newspapers also interviewed me.

On other occasions in 2004-5 the Economist, Sunday Telegraph, and the Times among others have referred to my work. Previously I have discussed my work on Radio 4’s Analysis, You and Yours, Law in Action, Thinking Allowed among others. In October 2006 my article on mobile phone use in hospitals was covered by The Times, Guardian, BBC Online, Daily Mail and Radio 4’s PM.


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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 31/07/2018