What kind of real? In academia, outlining a methodology is important because it helps establish the veracity of your work: it provides a framework within which readers can assess how you have come to make the truth claims you make, including the limitations and shortfalls of those claims. This book is no different: the methodology is described in this chapter in order to allow the reader to verify the nature of the research presented. There are other reasons, however, that make methodology important. One is that your methodology says a lot about the kind of reality you are trying to find: somebody exploring the biological life of elephants might use photography (but also dung, tracks, and other physical traces), whereas a psychoanalyst has little use for physical traces, focused as she is on the psychical reality of the patient (although some physical traces inevitably intrude, not least tears, tissues, and maltreated bodies). So, in order to establish a methodology appropriate for exploring the experimental US military behaviours identified in the interlude, let this chapter begin by reprising the account provided in the first, this time with a specific question in mind: what kind of real is being explored by Foucault, Lefebvre, and Deleuze and Guattari? This may seem like a strange question. It may, in fact, be surprising to think of different ‘kinds’ of real: we are accustomed to thinking of the ‘real’ as ‘out there,’ independent from us, singular, definite (Law 2004a: 24-5). We may know it to better or worse degrees, but the ‘real’ itself – the stuff of which it is made – stays the same. Its nature is unchanging. Nevertheless, the first chapter began, in a way, with an appeal to a different kind of real. It began with an assertion of openness, specifically an assertion of the openness of the organization of violence. As noted, such an assertion flies in the face of conventional understandings of violence, where its organization is not open at all, but is over-determined (by human agency, by social structures, even by anarchy). To undermine these
conventional understandings of violence is to undermine our usual account of the real: a suggestion of openness undermines the singularity, the definite-ness, the independence (from us, from our accounting) of the reality of violence. Such an assertion is not entirely unprecedented. As is explored later in this chapter, there are now entire disciplines devoted to exploring openness in its many forms. Material semiotics in Science and Technology Studies (STS), nonrepresentational geography, cyborg feminism: all of these might have sympathy with an assertion of the openness of the organization of violence. But these can be explored later. First, and not least because it helps us to clarify what openness is, we must return to this deceptively simple question: ‘What kind of real?’ John Law fires the opening salvo in the possibilizing of different ‘kinds’ of real when he points to a number of ‘things’ (he calls them ‘textures’) that (academic) accounts utilizing conventional understandings of the real are not good at explaining:
Pains and pleasures, hopes and horrors, intuitions and apprehensions, losses and redemptions, mundanities and visions, angels and demons, things that slip and slide, or appear and disappear, change shape or don’t have much form at all, unpredictabilities, these are just a few of the phenomena that are hardly caught by social science methods. . . . If much of the world is vague, diffuse or unspecific, slippery, emotional, ephemeral, elusive or indistinct, changes like a kaleidoscope, or doesn’t really have much pattern at all, then where does this leave social science?