2021 onwards: Reader in Human Geography, Loughborough University
2014 - 2021: Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
Professional responsibilities and awards
2020 – RGS-IBG Taylor and Francis Award
2019 onwards – 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. 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 was funded by the ESRC, and will inform a monograph on African youth, development, 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 UK 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 in Africa
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. 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.
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 (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 patriarchy, Transactions 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 Africa, Progress 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 time, Transactions 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 Ghanaians, Geoforum, 103, pp. 75-84
Esson, J (2018) ‘The why and the white’: Racism and curriculum reform in British Geography, Area, DOI: 10.1111/area.12475.
Esson, J. Noxolo, P. Baxter, R. Daley, P. and 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 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) Escape to victory: development, youth entrepreneurship and the migration of Ghanaian footballers, Geoforum, 64, pp.47-55