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

2021 – Editorial board, Political Geography

2020 – RGS-IBG Taylor and Francis Award

2020 -  Loughborough University Arts Committee

2019 – Loughborough University Human Resources Committee

2019 - Loughborough University’s Race Equality Charter Working Group

2018 – Loughborough University Teaching Assessor

2018 - International Advisory Board, Population, Space and Place

2017 - Co-Chair of Loughborough University’s BME Staff Network

2016 - Head of the RGS-IBG RACE Working Group’s Teaching and Learning subcommittee

James’ research is broadly located within the fields of critical development studies and population geography, with a focus on Africa. This is expressed in the following research areas 1) Migration and the politics of mobility 2) Urban Dynamics 3) Unconventional approaches to development. Ongoing and recent projects in these areas include:

Migration and the politics of mobility

James is investigating the relationship between global inequality and the belief among West African youth that irregular and clandestine mobilities are a legitimate way to improve their life chances. This area of James’ research has been funded by the ESRC and UNICEF, and will inform a monograph on African youth and transnational migration to be published by Manchester University Press.

James is also interested in higher education as a field of inquiry, ranging from policy reforms to the issue of racism in the academy. He was awarded a British Academy research grant to investigate the impact of immigration policies on international student mobilities. More specifically, this project examines how migration statistics are produced, made credible, and used to monitor migrant populations.

Urban dynamics

James is exploring the relationship between ageing, transport, and urbanization 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. As well as research from the EU-FP7 African Rural-City Connections project (RurbanAfrica), where James collaborated with scholars based in Cameroon, Denmark, France, Ghana, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Tanzania and the UK. Policy documents and reports associated with this research can be found here.

Unconventional approaches to development

James is investigating the efficacy of sport, art and cultural programmes in promoting and achieving development in relation to poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and social justice and inclusion. James leads the research strand in Cabo Verde. 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.

My teaching is in development geography, bringing together my interests in migration, urban dynamics and education.

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

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

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

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

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

Esson, J, Amankwaa, EF, Mensah, P (2020) Boys are tired! Youth, urban struggles, and retaliatory patriarchyTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/tran.12411.

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

McQuaid, K, Esson, J, Gough, KV, Wignall, R (2020) Navigating old age and the urban terrain: Geographies of ageing from AfricaProgress in Human Geography DOI: 10.1177/0309132520948956.

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

Wignall, R. McQuaid, K. Gough, KV. and Esson, J (2019) ‘We built this city’: Mobilities, livelihoods and social infrastructure in the lives of ageing GhanaiansGeoforum, 103, pp. 75-84

Esson, J (2018) ‘The why and the white’: Racism and curriculum reform in British GeographyArea,  DOI: 10.1111/area.12475.

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

Esson, J (2015) You have to try your luck: male Ghanaian youth and the uncertainty of football migrationEnvironment and Planning A, 47(3), pp. 1383-1397

Esson, J (2015) Escape to victory: development, youth entrepreneurship and the migration of Ghanaian footballers, Geoforum, 64, pp.47-55