Thinking, Re-thinking

June already. I’m in the field, though my project has taken some unexpected turns that may actually giving me some breathing space to really devote the summer to developing my own thoughts and making progress on my writing. In the time that I’ve been here (one week), I picked up T.H. Luhrmann’s Of Two Minds: an Anthropologist looks at American Psychiatry. The thing I love about this book is the fact that it is written for a broad audience, but it is incredibly well-researched and sound.

So, of course, as I read this book I thought, now this what I want my book to be like

And then, a realization: as far as I can tell, this is Luhrmann’s third book. The project that informs this book lasted four years. She was already well into her career. I’m wondering if maybe I’m jumping the gun a little bit –I don’t have nearly as many years researching my topic, in fact I have some follow-up research to do now that I’m here. 

Meantime, my dissertation is still there. I developed some chapters into articles, but on the whole, the text is there. I have spent a lot more time thinking about suicide than I have about psychiatry specifically –and psychiatry certainly has a role to play in that story, so the work I’ve been doing is certainly relevant. I think I need to take a long, careful look at the thesis I left for dead. Maybe it has some life to it that I was too burned out to recognize a few years ago. Certainly it might be a good place to start. 

Meantime, I was asked to review a book for a prestigious university press. Without divulging anything, I can say that this is experience is coloring my next steps. 

So, I still have an article to churn out, and a manuscript review to return. But once that’s done, I’m going to take advantage of this unexpected time to take a second look at the book that might just be sitting there, waiting to be revised, in my own files…


It has been some time since my last post. While the time was productive (I submitted a major grant proposal and made major headway on another grant, and was able to publish an Op-Ed I co-authored with a colleague), the conference paper turned-chapter-turned-article has been sitting idly by. The semester ended, a consuming (in a good way) faculty conference followed, and I am leaving for China and then Mexico within the next two weeks. Thankfully, I decided to postpone the major grant submission to the next funding cycle –I need to get his article submitted soon, and I’m hoping that with this article submission will come the time to spend on the next few chapters.

It will be interesting to work on my book while in the field, but I’m starting to feel more eagerness and less trepidation. The new project I’m trying to get off the work may take a while to get going, and I’m taking that time as an invaluable opportunity to focus on the book. With three articles submitted this year, I feel better about dedicating the rest of the year to my other book chapters.

More on this as it develops. Wish me luck!

Conferencing, next steps, and The Grant(s)

I’m back! As some of you may know, last week’s missing post was not due to my usual falling of the wagon or being overwhelmed, but because I was presenting a working chapter (!) at a national conference. I was very excited with the panel, and I came away from the conference with some new knowledge (lots of really interesting stuff going on in the world of psychological anthropology!), some great contacts, and some good, solid ideas about my theoretical framework. I’m cautiously optimistic that I can covert my 19 pages of ethnographic text into an article and submit it before I leave for the field on May 28. Then, I’ll convert the article into a chapter, but that will be down the line. I have a plan for the next two (three?) chapters, which will focus respectively on the DSM and ICD diagnostic manuals, the history and meaning of ECT, and managed care in Mexico, respectively. I’m planning some follow-up interviews when I’m in the field, though I must confess I don’t really know how or even IF I can get that writing done over the summer. At the very least, I know where I’m going. 

This week, though, I’ve been occupied with a grant. I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with grant writing; the truth is, I’m not getting tenure without a grant, even though at my institution, I CAN get tenure without a book. So, the grant takes precedence even though I would much rather be working on the book. Simple facts of life. At least the grant is coming together, I feel pretty good about what I have so far and the deadline is still a couple of weeks away. I’m hoping to get a finalized draft done today so I can split my time between my book chapter/article and another grant next week.

I’m going to Mexico for a wedding next week –perhaps I’ll write about trying to get work done while traveling? We shall see….

If you are on the tenure track –what are your grant vs. publication requirements at your institution? How do you balance your writing?

Looking forward

It might not come as a surprise at nearly three months after I began my little endeavor (hah! “little”) I’ve had some moments of feeling completely overwhelmed. This week I experienced significant discomfort for the opposite reason. Although I can’t say the chapter draft is complete, I have a good sense of its argument and where it’s going. I have a solid 19 pages of ethnography, which makes me happy, and I am excited to get comments back from two very respected women in my field, which I hope will help guide my next steps. I also am conceptualizing my next chapter, which will be engaging with the diagnostic manuals (DSM-IV and ICD-10) as part of a neoliberal normalizing narrative of standards (as I’m writing, I’m wondering if Talal Asad’s work on secularism and human rights might not bear some relevance, particularly considering the fact that the ICD-10 was developed by the world health organization. It’s a chapter I don’t envision as having viability as an article (?) but it feels relevant to my subject. What bothers me a bit right now is that while I have a clear vision of my current chapter and of the next, the book is feeling a little blurry. And all books need a concise argument supported by its chapters. While I know the story I am telling, I feel shaky about its argument.

Then again, writing is thinking, and it is very possible that the argument will reveal itself as I write.

Meantime, I have to submit one grant proposal by May 1st, and another by May 16th. Fun for me!

Wish me luck….


IRB’s, paper-writing, and looking for funding

Sometimes, I forget I’m teaching two classes. Seriously. Some days, I get so swept up by my other work that it becomes more real than the 150 students that are currently taking my class (don’t worry! they very quickly remind me of their existence!). I think it’s because at my R1 institution, teaching is only a fraction (I want to say a third? it could be less) of what I’m hired to do. Today is one of those days when my other responsibilities take over my day and I momentarily forget about the 150 kids who are looking to me for their grade. I started writing up my IRB proposal, which feels like an enormous hassle (mostly because it is!). This year, my project won’t get away from “exempt” status, so I am anticipating a slow turnaround and some painful(ly tedious) revisions. It’s a project I’m excited about, though my main collaborator has me a little nervous –one of the vicissitudes of working in other countries is dealing with their own institutional cultures, and a recent election means considerably political upheaval and administrative changes at my field site. It’s a bit nerve-wracking but I’m learning to roll with the punches, otherwise I will drive myself nuts. The nice thing about startup is that if I wind up getting to my field city and doing a whole new project because my current field site becomes unavailable, it’s no biggie. It will suck for the two grants I am about to turn in, but I’m not expecting to get either one so again, no biggie.

Ah, the grant-writing process. Before, when I thought I was going to submit one of those huge grants to NIH or NSF, I was considerably more stressed out. Now that I’ve set my sights on a couple of foundations, I feel a little less overwhelmed. It just feels like if I can get some preliminary results published and give myself a little more time to develop my project, I will be in better shape to apply in the future. It would be nice to get a little bit of extra money, or money to fund my research for the next couple of years, but right now I just want to get some data I can publish. So, one grant application is done and awaiting a letter of support, and I started working on the second one today. Hopefully, I can get both out before they are due.

And then of course there is my conference paper, which I am supposed to submit to the discussants tomorrow. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but the two discussants on my panel are women whose work I deeply admire and whose research is very close to my own. I am thrilled that they are reading my work, and I really, really, want to get as much as I can out of this experience. The manuscript stands at about 18 pages now, but it will need quite a bit of theoretical re-working before I am ready to submit it for publication. Right now, it needs a better articulated discussion, and I need to conclude it somehow. In the next hour and a half. Huh. Guess I’d better get to it, then. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to write it as an article first, and get it submitted. I can re-write it for the book later. Any thoughts on how book chapters in monographs look different than peer-reviewed articles? I feel like the main difference is structural, because the book chapter is part of a greater whole, but I’d love to hear some thoughts if anyone out there has some.

Oh, yeah! And then there’s my students, dying to find out how they did on their last assignment.

Thank God for TA’s.


Off the Wagon (and using conference presentations to work on chapters)

Yes, I’ve been slacking. At least, I’ve been slacking about keeping up with my blog, and keeping up with my schedule. I did actually take time off last week for Spring Break (I needed it!), but I’ve also most definitely not been as consistent as I had been. And it all goes back to when I decided to “try” to not create a weekly schedule but rather try to create weekly goals. The result? Sort of, kind of ,meeting my goals (I did get an article submitted, and made some progress on transcription, which is still kicking my behind), but feeling otherwise out of control. And it made me totally ignore my blog, which makes me feel that I am not being accountable to myself.

So, I’m back to scheduling. And the truth is that even when I don’t stick to it completely, it’s been a boost to my morale and to my productivity. And yes, I don’t really feel great about the monthly goals I set out, but recently my good friend and mentor sent me a message where she remarked that things always seem to take three times as long to get written –and it’s true! Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the book is going to take me 36 months rather than 12, but I have to admit that before I started tracking I really didn’t realize just how long it took me to get things done.

Meantime, I’m working on a conference paper, but I’m doing something I actually am not accustomed to doing, and which I am very excited about. In the past, I’ve always written conference papers specifically for individual conferences: I answer a prompt, write an abstract, and then turn the abstract into a a 7-10 page paper. Of course, I always pick panels that have something to do with my research, but things usually end at the conference. This time, though, the paper I’m writing, and the paper I wrote for my professional conference in fall, are very relevant to the book –in fact, the subject I’m writing about (the process of transformation undergone by psychiatric patients in a public acute ward) is the backbone of an important chapter. So I’m taking the opportunity to write a real paper, building on my previous one, significantly expanding it, and reworking the thesis. The moderators will likely get a fairly lengthy manuscript (which I will then have to cut down to seven pages), and I am excited to get constructive comments back, because the writing will eventually (soon, hopefully?) become a chapter. It’s a bit weird for me, working this way, but I realize that this is how the process is actually supposed to work.

I’m also thinking that this manuscript will be submitted as an article before I complete the book. It will help to get comments back, and also help me keep my publications steady as I navigate the tenure process.

So this week, I scheduled, and I’m blogging. Here’s to doing this again next week!

On a lighter note, this is what happens to me when I try to work at home on the weekends….


Happy Monday!

Starting a new system today: Mondays are officially “Blogging, work-from-home, grant-writing days.” Let’s see how it works.

So far, I can’t complain about my productivity. I submitted my article (finally!) and got another chunk of sound transcribed. This week, I would like to really dive into the transcription thing, and I’m hoping to have at least one interview done, hopefully two, by Friday. In the meantime, my colleague and I are working on an Op-Ed together which we will probably send along to our university’s press people today. It’s exciting and fun, even if it doesn’t “count” for tenure. Of course, that means I don’t have a lot of time to spend on it.

Today is further complicated by the fact that I am reading and commenting on a student’s thesis chapters, which is a time consuming endeavor. So, I will this post brief. At least I have blogged for the week, which I wanted to do, and I have closed my facebook window.

BTW, yes, not going on social media does help my productivity.

My goals this week:

  • Write Spanish version of my IRB proposal for the summer’s field work.
  • Write themes for the ten sessions we’re designing.
  • Finish grant application for Endangered Languages Fund.
  • Transcribe 1.5 interviews
  • Begin Grant application.

Wish me luck…