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Anthropology | Marsha Quinlan

Ph.D., University of Missouri, Columbia
Associate Professor
Cultural Anthropology


Interest and Current Research

Marsha Quinlan is a medical anthropologist with primary concentrations in family health, ethnomedicine and ethnobotany. Her research (and much of her teaching) concerns the ways culture affects health and medical care. One of her foci is the use and knowledge of medicinal plants.  She is also interested in biocultural public health, and family-based well-being (psychological/mental and physical health).  She takes an empirical approach to ethnography by using quantitative and qualitative data together to describe medical systems. Her fieldwork has been in North and South America and the Caribbean, with most of my research on the medicine of a largely-horticulturalist community in Dominica (Lesser Antilles).

Since 1993, she has been involved with numerous aspects of anthropological research in the Dominican village of “Bwa Mawego” including general medical ethnography, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology, alcohol use, child health, breastfeeding, growth, and mental health (these topics overlap on the ground). She is co-PI of an NSF Cultural Anthropology Grant for research in Bwa Mawego, “Early Childhood Stress, Personality and Reproduction in a Matrifocal Community,” This project examines the complex interactions between family life, culture, biology, development and well-being..

She began research with two Washington communities (in addition Dominica fieldwork) during 2009. She is working with the Lummi Indian Nation as research PI on a USDA grant, the “Lummi Traditional Foods Project.” This is a collaborative WSU-Northwest Indian College (NWIC) feasibility study dealing with diabetes prevention through traditional plant use, present dietary assessment, and culturally relevant and responsive ways to for Lummi to re-incorporate traditional fruits and vegetables, or similar substitutes, into their present diets. The project aims to help preserve some traditional ecological knowledge through ethnobotanical research, and to offer user-friendly nutrition recommendations for this highly diabetic population. Elsewhere in Washington, she conducted pilot research on behavioral aspects of the “Hispanic health paradox” (whereby Hispanic-Americans tend to become less healthy with time and generations in the US, even as their wealth, status, and education increase) among Hispanics in Pasco, WA, a hub of Washington’s agricultural industry. She is (with WSU colleagues) proposing a project on the cultural aspects of depression in Latinas, who experience more depression and are less likely to receive mental health support than White women or African American women.


  • ANTH 101 General Anthropology
  • ANTH 203 Peoples of the World
  • ANTH 405 Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 468 Sex, Evolution and Human Nature
  • ANTH 529 Seminar in Ethnography
  • ANTH 554 Anthropological Field Methods Seminar


Representative Publications:

Quinlan, Marsha B. and Jenna R. Hansen, (in press) Introduction of Television and Dominican Youth. In Adolescent Identity: Evolutionary, Developmental and Cultural Perspectives. B. L. Hewlett, Ed. New York, NY, Taylor & Francis/Routledge.

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2011)  Ethnomedicine. In A Companion to Medical Anthropology. Merrill Singer & Pamela I. Erickson, Eds., pp. 381-403. Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell/Wiley Publications.

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2010) Ethnomedicine and Ethnobotany of Fright, a Caribbean Culture-bound Psychiatric Syndrome. In Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine6:9

Quinlan, Robert J. and Marsha B. Quinlan. (2008) Human Lactation, Pairbonds & Alloparents: A Cross-Cultural Analysis.In Human Nature 19(1) (2008): 87-102.

Quinlan, Robert J. and Marsha B. Quinlan. (2007) Modernization and Medicinal Plant Knowledge in a Caribbean Horticultural Village. In Medical Anthropology Quarterly21(2):169-192.

Quinlan, Robert J. and Marsha B. Quinlan (2007) Parenting and cultures of risk: A comparative analysis of infidelity, aggression and witchcraft. American Anthropologist, 109(1): 164-179.

Quinlan, Marsha B,. (2005) Considerations for Collecting Freelists in the Field: Examples from Ethnobotany, In Field Methods, Vol. 13, No. 3, August 2005 1-16, Sage Publications.

Quinlan, Robert J., Marsha B. Quinlan, and Mark V. Flinn. (2005) Local Resource Enhancement and Sex-biased Breastfeeding in a Caribbean Community. In Current Anthropology, 46(3):471-480.

Quinlan, Marsha B,. (2004) From the Bush: The Front Line of Health Care in a Caribbean Village. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Quinlan Robert J., Marsha B. Quinlan and Mark V. Flinn (2003) Parental Investment and Age at Weaning in a Caribbean Village. Evolution and Human Behavior 24(1):1-16.

Quinlan, Marsha B., Robert J. Quinlan, and Justin M. Nolan (2002) Ethnophysiology and Botanical Treatments of Intestinal Worms in Dominica, West Indies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 80 (1): 75-83

Current Students

Melissa Artstein, PhD,
Sarah Council, PhD,
Francisco de la Torre, MA: Master’s International,
Kevin Feeney, PhD,

Ethan McGaffey, PhD,
Amy Snively-Martinez, PhD,
Charles Snyder, PhD