I am a human geographer, doing research on political geography, political economy, development, diplomacy and international relations, and agriculture and food issues. I think of myself as an interdisciplinary scholar, and have been a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at the University of Windsor since 2005. Before that I got my BA in geography and history at the University of Kentucky in 1999, and my MA and PhD in geography at Syracuse University in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

My primary research interest is official development assistance, specifically those state institutions that handle donor countries’ aid and development policies. I am interested in two aspects of these institutions and their activities: first, how they frame and intervene in processes such as agricultural development, national security, and governance; and second, their own internal structures and external relations, and how these have changed over time as ideas about development, security, and foreign policy have changed. I currently hold an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for a project titled Development, diplomacy, and expertise: Placing state bureaucratic labour in the CIDA-DFAIT merger. In this research I am examining the 2013 amalgamation of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) to form a new single department, now called Global Affairs Canada (GAC). I am pursuing several themes that have emerged from the ongoing merger of these two formerly independent state institutions: the organization and agency of expert labor within the state bureaucracy; the construction of a new institutional culture in the merged department; the geographic complexity of a national state institution with global reach; the role of gender in the production and use of policy expertise; and how the Canadian merger compares with similar moves in other donor states. Annual year-end research summary and progress reports for this project are available for 2017, 2018, and 2019.

My past research has focused on similar themes, looking at, among other things, the geopolitics of food security, ideas about aid effectiveness, and the evolution of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). I have a more general interest in the geographies of state power and bureaucratic expertise, and am planning a project on the work of Oliver Baker, an American geographer who was instrumental as an agricultural expert in the US Department of Agriculture before and during the New Deal, a founder of the University of Maryland Department of Geography, and a president of the Association of American Geographers. This project has been stewing for a while, but is underway as I read through a series of articles Baker published in the 1920s and 1930s in Economic Geography on the regional geography of agriculture in North America. Finally, I am involved in a research cluster at the University of Windsor with colleagues in Creative Arts, History, and Political Science focused on the Windsor-Detroit border region.


Below is a list of my publications. Some are also available in their almost-final form through the Scholarship at Windsor portal at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library. Many of these are behind paywalls when you click the links, but if you want any of the articles, please contact me and I can get a copy to you.

Essex, J. (2013) Development, Security, and Aid: Geopolitics and Geoeconomics at the US Agency for International Development. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.


Refereed journal articles
Essex, J. and J. Bowman. (In press) “Striped pants and Birkenstocks: Clothing, gender and work culture at Global Affairs Canada.” International Feminist Journal of Politics. doi: 10.1080/14616742.2020.1724814.

Essex, J., L. Stokes, and I. Yusibov. (2019) “Geographies of diplomatic labor: Institutional culture, state work, and Canada’s foreign service.” Political Geography, 72: 10-19. doi: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.03.005. [open access with no paywall]

Essex, J. and L. Carmichael. (2017) “Restructuring development expertise and labour in the CIDA-DFAIT merger.” The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe canadien, 61 (2): 266-278. doi: 10.1111/cag.12328.

Essex, J. (2016) “International development institutions and the challenges of urbanization: The case of Jakarta.” Development in Practice, 26 (3): 346-359. doi: 10.1080/09614524.2016.1150966.

Essex, J. (2014) “From the global food crisis to the age of austerity: The anxious geopolitics of global food security.” Geopolitics, 19 (2): 266-290. doi: 10.1080/14650045.2014.896795.

Le Billon, P., M. Sommerville, and J. Essex. (2014) “Introduction: Global Food Crisis.” Geopolitics, 19 (2): 235-238. doi: 10.1080/14650045.2014.920231.

Sommerville, M., J. Essex, and P. Le Billon. (2014) “The ‘global food crisis’ and the geopolitics of global food security.” Geopolitics, 19 (2): 239-265. doi: 10.1080/14650045.2013.811641.

Essex, J. (2012) “Idle hands are the devil’s tools: The geopolitics and geoeconomics of hunger.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102 (1): 191-207. doi: 10.1080.00045608.2011.595966.

Essex, J. (2012) “The politics of effectiveness in Canada’s international development assistance.” Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d’études du développement, 33 (3): 338-355. doi: 10.1080/02255189.2012.713856.

Essex, J. (2010) “Sustainability, food security, and development aid after the food crisis: Assessing aid strategies across donor contexts.” Sustainability, 2 (11): 3354-3382. doi: 10.3390/su2113354.

Essex, J. (2009) “The work of hunger: Security, development, and food-for-work in post-crisis Jakarta.” Studies in Social Justice, 3 (1): 99-116.

Essex, J. (2008) “Biotechnology, sound science, and the Foreign Agricultural Service: A case study in neoliberal rollout.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 26 (1): 191-209. doi: 10.1086/c61m

Essex, J. (2008) “Deservedness, development, and the state: Geographic categorization in the US Agency for International Development’s Foreign Assistance Framework.” Geoforum, 39 (4): 1625-1636. doi: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.02.002.

Essex, J. (2008) “The neoliberal geopolitics of food security: The case of Indonesia.” Human Geography, 1 (2): 14-25.

Essex, J. (2008) “The neoliberalization of development: Trade capacity building and security at the US Agency for International Development.” Antipode, 40 (2): 229-251. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8330.2008.00590.x

Essex, J. (2007) “Getting what you pay for: Authoritarian statism and the geographies of US trade liberalization strategies.” Studies in Political Economy: A Socialist Review, 80 (Autumn 2007): 75-103.

Essex, J. (2002) “‘The Real South Starts Here’: Whiteness, the Confederacy, and commodification at Stone Mountain.” Southeastern Geographer, 42 (2): 211-227. doi: 10.1353/sgo.2002.0029.

Short, J.R., C. Breitbach, S. Buckman, and J. Essex. (2000) “From world cities to gateway cities: Extending the boundaries of globalization theory.” City, 4 (3): 317-340. doi: 10.1080/713657031.

Book and encyclopedia contributions
Essex, J. (2017) “Aid.” In N. Castree, M. Goodchlild, A. Kobayashi, W. Liu, D. Marston, and D. Richardson (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology. Hoboken, NJ and Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell and the American Association of Geographers. doi: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0458.

Essex, J. (2017) “U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).” In R. Rycroft (ed.), The American Middle Class: An Encyclopedia of Progress and Poverty. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO/Greenwood, 316-318.

Essex, J. (2016) “The neoliberalization of agriculture: Regimes, resistance, and resilience.” In S. Springer, K. Birch, and J. MacLeavy (eds.), The Handbook of Neoliberalism. New York: Routledge, 514-525.

Essex, J. (2010) “Food, Geography of.” In B. Warf (ed.), Encyclopedia of Geography (Volume 3). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1144-1146.

Other publications
Essex, J. (2016) “Author’s response: Geopolitics, geoeconomics, and further developments at USAID.” Dialogues in Human Geography, 6 (1): 98-102. doi: 10.1177/2043820615609512 [Part of book review forum on Development, Security, and Aid]

Essex, J. (2014) “Introducing Globalization: Ties, Tensions, and Uneven Integration, by Matthew Sparke.” sparke-reviews_essex.pdf; full book review symposium at

Essex, J. (2013) “Committing Geography.” In P. Bigger (ed.), Explosive Geographies – Intervention Symposium.; full symposium at

Essex, J. and M. Ruggles. (2009) “Praxis and place in FedUp Windsor’s local food activism.” In K. Daly, D. Schugurensky, and K. Lopes (eds.), Learning Democracy by Doing: Alternative Practices in Citizenship Education and Participatory Democracy (Conference proceedings). Toronto: Transformative Learning Centre, OISE/UT, 503-509.