James Esson

Dr James Esson

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

2022 - Member of Council (Board of Trustees), Royal Geographical Society with the IBG
2022 - Editorial Board, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
2021 - Member of the Advisory Group for the Subject Benchmark Statement for Geography
2021 - International Editorial Board, Political Geography
2021 - Secretary, Royal Geographical Society with the IBG’ RACE Working Group
2020 - Royal Geographical Society with the IBG, Taylor and Francis Award
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 studies

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 critical development studies and population geography, bringing together his interests in migration, urban dynamics, and postcolonialism.


Rhianna Garrett (2022-): Career trajectories and experiences of racialised minority university staff and alumni (University Studentship)

Steyn Hoogakker (2019-): Sustainable energy technologies in urban Ghana (University Studentship)

Simi Kolajo (2021-): Black Geographies of home and comfort (University Studentship)

Chidinma Okorie: (2018-) The mobilities of Nigerian Commonwealth Scholars (University Studentship)

Recently completed

Jedi Tetteh (2021): Maternal and child health in urban Ghana (University Studentship)

David O’Byrne (2020): Decolonising sport for development and peace (University Studentship)

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

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

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

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 

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), 63-78 

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

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