Dr Fiona Larkan, Maynooth University PhD (2007), died on the 27th of December 2017 at the age of 54 after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Fiona Larkan image
Friday, January 26, 2018 - 11:30

Fiona completed her BA, MA and PhD at Maynooth University in the Department of Anthropology. After an early career in business in South Africa, as well as starting a family, she registered at Maynooth in 1997 as a mature student. Her impact on the Department was immediate and long-lasting, quickly establishing herself as a superb scholar and energetic presence in the student Anthropology Society, while generously volunteering at any Department events that needed an extra hand. After completing a First Class Bachelors Degree, she was accepted into the MA/PhD programme where she continued to distinguish herself. Her PhD proposal was accepted by the department in 2003, and she won one of the early Government of Ireland Scholarships (now Irish Research Council) to pursue her work on how women in both lower-level state professionals (predominantly nurses and teachers) in Coloured communities in South Africa and White Irish communities in Ireland perceived and dealt with the risk of HIV. This research was just on the eve of the Northern patent on HAART being broken, so the disease was still then understood as an inevitable, agonizing death sentence in South Africa. This research evolved into the thesis, Moralizing Cultures: Community, Risk and the Female Body in Ireland and South Africa which was successfully defended in 2007. She had a very promising and inspiring bibliography, and her struggle with cancer did little to slow down her scholarship, culminating in editing an important collection with her friend and colleague, Dr Fiona Murphy (Maynooth PhD 2009), Memory and Recovery in Times of Crisis https://www.routledge.com/Memory-and-Recovery-in-Times-of-Crisis/Larkan-Murphy/p/book/9781472481122 The work that she leaves us shows that our loss of her scholarship will be felt for many years to come.
It took only a few minutes in Fiona’s presence to see that she was definitively a woman-of-action, possessed in equal measure of integrity, energy and purpose. Just out with her PhD, she became one of the founding members of the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium (CDPC), an Institute set up under the Strategic Partnership Programme between Irish Aid and the HEA in 2007. She also collaborated with Dr Saris (her PhD supervisor) on a successful grant application to the Global Health Research Award programme jointly administered between Irish Aid and the Health Research Board, Barriers to Access and Maintenance to HAART in the Western Cape (GRHA 2007/08). As a Postdoctoral Researcher, Fiona both collected data in often very emotionally draining circumstances (about half of our key informants had passed away by the end of this project in 2012), while mentoring local research assistants, Paschaline and Thato. As this project wound down, Fiona was hired by the Global Health Programme at Trinity College Dublin, where she directed MSc degree students from 2011, until she became ill in the Summer of 2016. Despite being relative junior in her career, Fiona had a string of impressive publications
During this period, she also emerged as a key presence in the Anthropological Association of Ireland (AAI), serving as a Committee Member and Editor of the Journal of the AAI (to which she devoted an enormous amount of energy, increasing both its scope and its impact), culminating in being elected President of the organization in 2014. She was also one of the founders of the Irish Medical Anthropology Network.
Throughout, Fiona established a reputation for both fine scholarship and generosity of spirit. No one who came in contact with her failed to be impressed by her energy and willingness to extend herself to help others. There was no task that she found too big to manage and no detail that ever seemed to be too small to be overlooked. She has left a hole in the lives of everyone who was privileged to have known her either professionally or personally.
Fiona had an unflagging dedication to her family; they were at the absolute centre of her heart and her everyday life. She was a very devoted wife to Brad and dedicated mom to David and Cían. They have our sincerest sympathies.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam