Audializing Migrant Bodies: Sound and Security at the Border

Presentation by Michelle Weitzel

Sound represents a salient yet rarely examined counterpoint to visuality and materiality in security, international bordering, and mobility literature. Using the context of sub-Saharan African migration as grounding for empirical analysis and drawing on fieldwork conducted in Morocco in 2015 and 2016, this article lays the foundation for a research agenda that understands voice, and the sonic body more broadly, as mechanisms of political power. In examining the central roles that sound, hearing, and voice play in strategies of individual resistance at border crossings, as well as in state, private, and transnational communication and surveillance regimes, it attends to the ways in which sound and the audialized body reconfigure power relations, and structure mobility and personal identity. This analysis contributes to the growing literature addressing biometric borders and the deterritorialization of security practices, and argues that sound, along with more familiar nodes of securitization, constitutes a critical site of governmentality and therefore of ethical and moral negotiation.

  Michelle Weitzel is a doctoral candidate in the Politics Department at the New School for Social Research. Her research pertains to critical security studies and governance in the Middle East and North Africa.  She traces ways in which the human body is conscripted into frameworks of power, and how international geopolitics plays out at the level of the street. 

Michelle Weitzel received a scholarship 2018-19 of ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius within the program "Trajectories of Change" that focuses on societies in transformation.