- 2018 onwards: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
- 2014 - 2018: Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
- 2019 onwards - Loughborough University’s Race Equality Charter Working Group
- 2018 onwards - Loughborough University Teaching Assessor
- 2018 onwards - International Advisory Board, Population, Space and Place
- 2017 onwards - Co-Chair of Loughborough University’s BME Staff Network
- 2016 onwards - Head of the RGS-IBG RACE Working Group’s Teaching and Learning subcommittee
- 2015 onwards- Module Contributor: Global Challenges in Transport, Oxford Leadership Programme, University of Oxford
- 2015 - Member of the Academic Assessor Group for the ESRC-DFID Education and Development Programme Call
James' research is broadly located within the fields of critical development studies and population geography. This is expressed in the following research areas 1) Unconventional approaches to development 2) Migration and the politics of mobility 3) Urban Dynamics. Ongoing and recent projects in these areas include:
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 examines how philanthropic giving, within African higher education institutions, is shaped by and shapes development agendas.
Migration and the politics of mobility
James is bringing social and cultural theory into conversation with the migration-development nexus. He does so by using human trafficking as a way to investigate the tension between development policies and the belief among West African youth that regardless of the risks involved irregular migration is a legitimate way to improve their life chances. This area of his 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.
He is interested in higher education as a field of inquiry, ranging from policy reforms to the issue of racism in the academy. James was awarded a British Academy research grant to investigate the impact of UK immigration policies on international students. More specifically, this project examines how migration statistics are produced, made credible, and used by the State to monitor migrant populations.
Urban dynamics in Africa
James is exploring the relationship between age-related mobility, urbanization processes and development 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 he 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.
His teaching is in development geography, bringing together his interests in migration, urban dynamics and education.
Current postgraduate research students:
- Steyn Hoogakker: Sustainable Energy Technologies in Informal Settlements (University Studentship)
- David O’Byrne: Sport for Development and Peace (University Studentship)
- Chidinma Okorie: Development in Africa through Commonwealth Scholarships (University Studentship)
- Anthony Perrett: Sustainable Energy & Poverty Reduction (University Studentship)
- Jedi Tetteh: Maternal and child health in urban Ghana (University Studentship)
Current postgraduate research students
- David O’Byrne: "Sport for Development and Peace" (University Studentship)
- Jedi Tetteh: "Maternal and child health in urban Ghana" (University Studentship)
- Chidinma Okorie: "Development in Africa through Commonwealth Scholarships" (University Studentship)
- Esson, J (2020) Playing the victim? Human trafficking, African youth, and geographies of structural inequality, Population, Space and Place, DOI: 10.1002/psp.2309.
- 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
- Gough, K, Yankson, PWK, Esson, J (2019) Migration, housing and attachment in urban gold mining settlements, Urban Studies, 56(13), pp.2670-2687
- 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
- Esson, J (2015) Better off at home? Rethinking responses to trafficked West African footballers in Europe, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 41(3), pp.512-530, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2014.927733.