- 2018 onwards: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
- 2014 - 2018: Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University
- 2018 onwards - Admissions Tutor, Geography and Environment
- 2018 onwards - University Teaching Assessor
- 2018 onwards - International Advisory Board, Population, Space and Place
- 2017 onwards - Co-Chair of Loughborough University’s BAME 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, UK
- 2015 - Member of the Academic Assessor Group for the ESRC-DFID Education and Development Programme Call
James’ research is broadly located within the field of critical development studies. Ongoing and recent projects focus on the following three areas:
1) Unconventional approaches to development
James is investigating the efficacy of sport, art and cultural programmes in promoting sustainable development. This work is supported by the ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund. James also worked on a project, funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which examined how philanthropic giving to African universities shapes national and international development agendas.
2) Migration and the politics of mobility
James is researching human trafficking in the football industry as a way to examine the tension between development policies and the belief among West African youth that migration is a legitimate way to improve their life chances. This research was originally funded by the ESRC.
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 recently awarded a British Academy 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.
3) 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, and the EU-FP7 African Rural-City Connections project (RurbanAfrica).
James' teaching is in development geography, bringing together his interests in migration, urban dynamics and education.
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)
- 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
- Gough, KV. Yankson, PWK. and Esson, J (2018) Migration, housing and attachment in urban gold mining settlements, Urban Studies, DOI: 10.1177/0042098018798536
- 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