Conventional approaches to qualitative research seek to distill and capture meaning through a sequence of determined, progressive methodological steps that serve to synthesize difference toward a series of overarching claims regarding human experience. This approach reifies contemporary neoliberal values and, as a consequence, short-circuits any possibility for progressive social change. Through conventional research practices, the principles of security, schizoid, and statistical society accelerate, extending normalizing processes of governmentality, and producing a docile citizenry adverse to key elements of an engaged democracy. In such circumstance, risk is identified as the production of findings that are ambiguously defined, not attending to values of certainty and generalizable outcomes. As a consequence, conventional methodological practices fail to engage the postmodern condition—fragmented experiences with inconclusive outcomes are displaced by methodologies bent on merging difference into foreclosed meaning.
Contrary to conventional approaches to research, post-foundational orientations emphasize relational logics that maintain difference within the inquiry project itself. A provocative example of this extends from newly materialist approaches to qualitative inquiry that emphasizes the productive possibilities inherent in difference and, as such, displace the simplified dialectical reasoning of conventional approaches in favor of more dialogic recognition of diffractive patterning. In this sense, open-ended difference makes possible previously unrecognized (even unthought) possibilities for being otherwise. As such, newly materialist approaches to inquiry manifest alternative ontological and epistemological practices that are not available to the conventional methodologist; they make possible an open-ended vision of the future that is necessary for radical democratic action. Furthermore, the fluid nature of such methodologies align well with Foucault’s explication of parrhesia, a means of truth-making that creates new possibilities for becoming otherwise. The intersection of newly materialist methodologies with parrhesia challenges methodologists to risk the very relations that secure their expertise, establishing a moral challenge to the impact of past practice on the possibilities inherent in the future.