Matthew A. Schnurr

Professor in the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University


I am an environmental geographer with research and teaching interests in environment and development, political ecology, agricultural biotechnology, farmer decision-making and environmental justice. My work focuses primarily on eastern and southern Africa.


I have degrees in both the natural and social sciences.  A B.Sc. in Biology from Queen’s University provided me with a strong foundation in studying environmental issues through a scientific framework. An M.A. in Environment and Development from the Department of Geography at the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) helped me to understand the non-human environment as a politicized space comprised of actors with varying power relations and exposed me to political ecology as a useful framework for understanding these relationships.

My PhD work in the Department of Geography at the University of British Columbia furthered my interest in the intersections of nature, culture and power. My PhD dissertation investigated the failure of cotton farming in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It sought to unpack the larger political and scientific forces that kept enthusiasm for cotton brimming among colonialists, then early settlers, then scientists, while efforts to cultivate the crop repeatedly fell short – often devastatingly short – of expectations. My goal was to account for the repeated attempts to cultivate cotton and evaluate why these repeated attempts ended in failure.

Learn more about my current research interests.

I started my appointment at Dalhousie in 2008.  Dalhousie sits on the unceded traditional territory of the Mi'kmaq people.  This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq Wəlastəkwiyik (Maliseet), and Passamaquoddy Peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1726. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wəlastəkwiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations. To learn more about Mi’kma’ki click here and here.