Dr James Esson

PhD, University College London

Pronouns: He/him
  • UG Programme Director (Geography and Environment)
  • Reader in Human Geography

Academic career

2021 onwards: Reader in Human Geography, Loughborough University
2014 - 2021: Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University

Professional responsibilities and awards

2023 – British Academy Regional Mentor 
2022 - Member of Council (Board of Trustees), Royal Geographical Society with IBG  
2022 - Board of Trustees, The Geographical Association 
2022 - Editorial Board, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 
2021 - Member of the Advisory Group for the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement for Geography 
2021 – International Editorial Board, Political Geography 
2020 - Royal Geographical Society with IBG, Taylor and Francis Award  
2019 - Loughborough University’s Arts and Events Committee and Human Resources Committee
2018 - International Advisory Board, Population, Space and Place 

James’ research cuts across development, political and population geography. He is also interested in higher education as a field of inquiry, particularly racism in the academy and questions around citational practice and plagiarism. Ongoing and recent projects include: 
Critical development geography
James is investigating the efficacy of sport, art, and cultural programmes in promoting environmental sustainability and social justice. This work is supported by the ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund. He is also working on a project funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund that seeks to generate postcolonial philanthropic praxis through collaboration with higher education institutions in Africa. Resources from this project can be found here
Political and population geography 
James is examining the relationship between global inequality and irregular forms of mobility. This area of his research has been funded by the ESRC and UNICEF. James was also the recipient of a British Academy research grant, which aims to investigate how migration statistics are produced, made credible, and used to monitor migrant populations. 
Urban and population geography 
James is exploring the relationship between ageing, transport, and urban dynamics in Africa. This strand of his work builds on research conducted as part of the ESRC-DFID Urban Growth and Poverty in Mining Africa (UPIMA) research programme, and research from the EU-FP7 African Rural-City Connections project

James’ teaching is in development and population geography, bringing together his interests in mobility, urban dynamics, and education. 


Rhianna Garrett: Career trajectories and experiences of racialised minority university staff and alumni (University Studentship)

Steyn Hoogakker: Sustainable energy technologies in urban informal settlements in Ghana (University Studentship) 

Simi Kolajo: Black Geographies of home and comfort (University Studentship)  

Alpha Koroma: Technology and solid waste management in Sierra Leone (UKRI studentship) 

Chidinma Okorie: The mobilities of Nigerian Commonwealth Scholars (University Studentship) 

Recently completed

David O’Byrne: Decolonising sport for development and peace (University Studentship) 

Anthony Perrett: Sustainable energy & livelihoods in urban Ghana (UKRI Studentship) 

Jedi Tetteh: Maternal and child health in urban Ghana (University Studentship) 

Darby P, Esson J & Ungruhe C (2022) African football migration: aspirations, experiences and trajectories. Manchester University Press. 

Esson J, Amankwaa EF & Mensah P (2021) Boys are tired! Youth, urban struggles, and retaliatory patriarchy, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 46:193–207 DOI: 10.1111/tran.12411

McQuaid, K, Esson, J, Gough, KV, & Wignall, R (2021) Navigating old age and the urban terrain: Geographies of ageing from Africa, Progress in Human Geography, 45(4) 814–833  DOI: 10.1177/0309132520948956

Esson, J (2020) Playing the victim? Human trafficking, African youth, and geographies of structural inequality, Population, Space and Place, DOI: 10.1002/psp.2309

Esson J (2020) ‘The why and the white’: Racism and curriculum reform in British Geography, Area, 52, 708-715  DOI: 10.1111/area.12475

Blazek M, Esson J & Smith D (2019) Relational geographies of human trafficking: inequality, manoeuvring and im/mobility across space and time, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 44(1), 63-78 

Esson J, Noxolo P, Baxter R, Daley P & Byron M (2017) The 2017 RGS-IBG chair’s theme: decolonising geographical knowledges, or reproducing coloniality? Area, 49(3), pp.384-388 

Esson J, Gough KV, Simon D, Amankwaa E, Ninot O & Yankson, PWK (2016) Livelihoods in motion: linking transport, mobility and income-generating activities, Journal of Transport Geography, 55, 182-188