Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York U.
Grant numberGr. 9922
Approve DateOctober 25, 2019
Project TitlePfeifer, Michelle (New York U.) "Your Voice is (not) Your Passport: The Mediated Voice and Sonic Borders," supervised by Dr. Helga Tawil-Souri
MICHELLE PFEIFER, then a graduate student at New York University, New York, New York, received funding in October 2019 to aid research on “Your Voice is (not) Your Passport: The Mediated Voice and Sonic Borders,” supervised by Dr. Helga Tawil-Souri. This project analyzes the use of automated language recognition and its related history of voice analysis and anthropological voice recordings in the context of asylum determination, refugee registration, and border control. During fifteen months of research in Germany, ethnographic interviews with linguists, immigration lawyers, policymakers, software engineers, and ethnographic field visits to refugee registration centers and refugee camps in and around Berlin, and research at online conferences of security and biometrics industries were conducted. This ethnographic research is combined with archival research conducted at the German Federal Archives, the Berlin Sound Archive, and the Political Archive of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This project demonstrates that data-driven projects that are framed as governmental reforms—purportedly meant to fix the perceived “crises” of migration—function to deepen inequalities and enhance border policing. The project shows how the implementation of data-driven technologies in migration and border policing—while couched in a language of efficiency and objectivity—is replete with technological failures and contestations that reproduce racial inequalities. The project situates contemporary border technologies within a colonial genealogy of producing racial difference in Europe. This genealogical approach decenters temporalities of crisis and emergency and reveals the postcolonial continuities of digital border regimes.