NYU Steinhardt News

Michelle Pfeifer Receives International Dissertation Fellowship

Awarded a dissertation fellowship, MCC doctoral student Michelle Pfeifer will spend the next academic year at Freie University in a paid residency administered by the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies. Established in 1986, the program convenes American and Canadian scholars conducting research on topics related to modern and contemporary Germany. Fellows participate in a research colloquium run by a multidisciplinary advisory committee of eminent professors from universities in Berlin and Potsdam.

Pfeifer’s research examines the German state's use of media technology in processing asylum claims. She is focusing on a recently adopted, and much touted, voice recognition software intended to determine a claimant’s country of origin. Pfeifer’s study of auditory methods of determining identity and citizenship offers a novel take on the technologies that police national borders.

“By scrutinizing state bureaus, asylum interviews, case files, court rooms, legal offices, and databases I follow the circulation of sonic data produced about migrants to understand how the voice is translated into the adjudication of legal status. My second site is comprised of software and programming design and developers, forensic linguistics, policy-makers, research facilities, and algorithms that I explore to analyze how migrant voices become inscribed with territorial belonging and how moral and political claims of value, deservingness, and citizenship become inscribed onto technologies.”