No doubt, Annamarie Mol’sThe Body Multiple (Duke University Press, 2002) helped me to fully comprehend the implications of ontological “multiplicity” (as an alternative to singular epistemological truth), more so, by far, than even Latour’s early (dare I say, seminal) work on what multiplicity would mean for research and theory in science and technology studies.
Two of her key insights:
1. On the concept of entitivity (which she does not really develop, but it is so central to her argument that we see the term “entity” twice in the opening paragraph of the preface), she writes:
This means that the book comes to talk about a series of different practices. These are practices in which some entitity is being slided, colored, probed, talked about, measured, counted, cut out, countered by walking, or prevented. Which entity? A slightly different one each time. Attending to enactment rather than knowledge has an important effect: what we think of as a single object may appear to be more than one (vii).
2. On how entitivity matters for “ontological politics”, she writes:
If the objects of medicine are enacted in a variety of ways, truthfulness is no longer good enough … [thus] I contributed to theorizing medicine’s ontological politics: a politics that has to do with the way in which problems are framed, bodies are shaped, and lives are pushed and pulled into one shape or another (viii).
These two points, I contend, cannot be applied to infrastructure so simply, and here is why: “the body”, as a concept or a colloquial phrase, grammatically implies a one-ness or singularity. Therefore, when we see a title like “The Body Multiple” we note (as Mol, of course, details) a singular noun with a pluralizing adjective. Can the same be so easily said about other objects? “The <FILL IN THE BLANK> Multiple”? I am not certain that a “The Infrastructure Multiple” really works as a sensitizing concept for infrastructure studies, despite the vast utility of multiplicity to aid us in rethinking infrastructure. After all, infrastructure is already a singular noun used to describe multiple things/objects.
According to a fast/dirty Google search:
So, the multiplicity of infrastructure is at once already a part of infrastructure, and yet the vast and multiplicitous network structure of infrastructure occasionally punctuated into a seeming singularity is an idea worth mining.