James was educated in South Africa, attending Rhodes University where he completed a BA (Hons) with majors in Politics, History, and Philosophy. He went on to complete an MA in Philosophy through the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
James has traveled and worked in several countries from Brazil and Uruguay to China and Malaysia. His interest is in developing and previously colonised countries. He was employed as an urban planner for a bike sharing company in Kuala Lumpur before accepting a research position with Think City, a Malaysian think tank examining urban issues.
James is principally interested in low tech solutions to complex urban problems. Many of the problems that plague rapidly growing cities are not issues of technology but issues of resource allocation. Design plays a major role in shaping our cities and societies. Design informed by a sense of justice is needed to overcome exclusionary and divided cities. Strong leadership and good governance are a prerequisite to any meaningful urban development.