Michelle Pfeifer

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 9922

Approve Date

October 25, 2019

Project Title

Pfeifer, Michelle (New York U.) "Your Voice is (not) Your Passport: The Mediated Voice and Sonic Borders," supervised by Dr. Helga Tawil-Souri

A key site for the administration of asylum claims in Europe, the German state has implemented automated forensic tools to authenticate migrants’ claims to asylum. This project examines how the use of automated voice recognition technologies in German asylum administration functions as a technique of border control. I explore how migrant voices are translated into sonic data in the process of positioning the voice as a suitable medium of verification. While contemporary migration management and border policing have largely been analyzed as documentary, visual, and biometric systems my research project takes sound and audibility as crucial sensory registers through which sovereign nation-states regulate mobility. This project asks: how is the technological mediation of migrant voices imagined as a condition for political and legal recognition and translated into rights, resources, and legal status? Conducting a 12-month ethnographic and historical study I track how sonic data about migrants circulates across state institutions, migrant networks, and programming design to explore how refugee data is valorized as basis for technological development and border policing. I suggest that technological knowledge and sonic data are translated into forms of legal and political recognition, thus, highlighting the centrality of sound for the regulation of mobility.