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?



Having a flexible plan of action is always important when I begin a new writing project. Last week, I started thinking about my writing in plan in terms of tasks and goals. This week, I continued working with Haynes’ book to create a viable plan for writing my manuscript. This is what I achieved this week:

In terms of the book manuscript:

  • I decided on my manuscript length (approx. 90,000 words MAX)
  • I wrote an abstract I didn’t hate (I don’t particularly like it, but I think it adequately conveys the subject and argument of the book).
  • I reviewed my dissertation, looking for salvageable material (not much, just one chapter, but I do have a good bit started with conference papers).

In terms of the article I’ve been working on, I was able to:

  • Set a submission deadline (1/31)
  • Create a list of journals I might submit this to.
  • Began working with a new analytical framework.

In addition, I used two of Haynes’ techniques to work out a preliminary plan for the manuscript. First, I used “word budgeting” (Haynes 67-69) to get a sense of just how long my chapters need to be. Right now, I’m visualizing the book as a six-chapter book (excluding the introduction and conclusion). The maximum number of words I can allot each chapter is 12,000, which is a nice number for me. It will take away a lot of the pressure I usually feel in writing articles to keep things short (my articles usually range between 7-9,000 words). With this number in mind, I have a sense of what an end-goal looks like as I work on an individual chapter.

Writing the book abstract was HARD. Part of the problem is that writing is thinking, and so I haven’t had a chance to think through everything I want to work into the book. When I wrote my dissertation, I didn’t think about the narrative or argument of the work as a whole –the result was a finished dissertation, but ultimately a somewhat disjointed one. This time, I’m writing the book as a single piece of writing, not a collection of essays about a topic (which is what the dissertation ultimately looked like). Forcing myself to write the abstract helped in this regard, and thankfully I was able to draft quite a bit of text that will hopefully be useful down the line. After running into a wall during my first try, I decided chart my ideas using another tool suggested by Haynes (pg. 64-66): a grid.

This took a few tries, but what I ultimately found came up with was a 4 by 4 chart. The top row contains the levels at which I think each theme operates –macro, meso, and micro. The left-hand column considers the type of theme –practical, ideological, or theoretical (in an anthropological sense). This is what it looks like:

Macro Meso Micro
Practical Health Care Reform/Seguro Popular Deployment of care

  • UCIP
  • Group therapy

Localized structural obstacles

  • Shortages
  • bureaucracy
F2F interactions
Ideological Neoliberalism

  • Seguro Popular as part of neoliberal reform.
Party politics Competing agendas“La Chingada”
Theoretical AgencyMedical anthropology

  • sickness & disease
Political EconomyMovement & flows Personhood/subjectivity

  • Subject formation through diagnosis

There are two things I am keeping at the forefront as I work on my plan: first, everything is very, very likely going to change. As I said before, writing is itself a process of thinking, and so I am expecting to find more needs to be said before this project is done. So, first, this chart is mutable. Second, it’s okay for it to look somewhat haphazard, because it’s only a tool to think through what exactly it is that I have to say. When I thought of something specific I wanted to expand on, I listed it as a bullet point beneath the broader theme.

Okay, so this chart helped me see the themes running through the narrative. But that didn’t help me too much in terms of dividing the whole thing into chapters. So I created another chart outlining what my chapters might look like if I divide the book into three parts:

Part I — Setting Part II – Care Part III – Acts
The Mexican Health Care System

  • Seguro popular
  • Neoliberalism?
  • Party politics
Deployment of care

  • Diagnosis & subjectivity
  • Implications for understandings of health and mental health –spirituality as part of health.

  • History
  • Setting
  • Structural obstacles.
  • Competing agendas
Health models and flows

  • Politics of compassion.
Agency & resistance?
The Culture of bureaucracy and the legacy of “la Chingada” Negotiation and resistance

Again, some of it is still somewhat murky, and I’m okay with that. I just want to have a general direction to follow.  Now, it really is as simple as choosing any one of these boxes and writing 12,000 words about it. I already have some text written about several of these, so for a couple chapters, this will mean expanding a conference paper or reworking a dissertation chapter. For others, it will involve drafting from scratch.

I used the two charts above to order my thoughts enough to write an abstract. It isn’t an abstract I’m thrilled with, or one I would pitch to a publisher or even make publicly available, but it clearly describes what the book is setting out to do, and that was the point of this.

The most important thing right now is to manage my time wisely. Next week, my goals are:

Week of 1/7-1/11

Book Manuscript


  • Choose a chapter to start working on.
  • Develop a chapter outline.
  • Begin drafting chapter.
  • Transcribe & Code
  • Continue working on analytical framework.
  • Write Statement of Argument.
  • Finalize coding and run analysis.
  • Create a reverse outline.