Gerda Heck, CETREN Postdoctoral Fellow
From 2010 to 2012, I investigated, within the scope of the international and interdisciplinary research project “Global Prayers – Redemption and Liberation in the City,“ the role of the new revival churches on the routes of migration. I conducted a multi-sited ethnographic research in Berlin (Germany), Kinshasa (DRC), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Istanbul (Turkey) and Paris (France). During my research particularly in Istanbul but also in Paris and Kinshasa, the entanglement of the religious and commercial, as well as the importance of the “suitcase trade”  in the establishment of local Congolese communities became apparent. Congolese traders from Kinshasa, but also from Johannesburg, Paris, Liverpool or Brussels, travel frequently to Istanbul and Guangzhou to buy garments or electronic devices. In the course of these travels, Congolese communities have been established in Guangzhou in recent years.
In “Flexible Citizenship” Aihwa Ong (1999) shows how individuals as much as governments create concepts of belonging, citizenship and sovereignty as strategies towards accumulating capital and power. Ong develops her concept on the situation of transnational wealthy Chinese families who distribute their business activities, domiciles and families depending on the requirements of global capital in Hong Kong, California, Canada or Australia. It might also be useful to apply Ong’s notion of citizenship to the situation of those who are using flexibility not as a means to accumulate capital, but also to survive, improve living conditions, and support their families.
Drawing on the concept of “flexible citizenship” I would like to analyze the ways in which Congolese migrants and traders in Guangzhou try to establish themselves locally but also in their respective cities of residence (in Europe or Africa) and gain rights. With my research on Congolese migrants in Guangzhou, I would be able to expand on my previous research on the Congolese diaspora. Furthermore, it would be an important contribution for migration studies, pointing to the fact that migration from Africa does not exclusively lead to European countries, but increasingly creating new migration routes across Latin-America, the Middle East as well as Asian countries.
 Suitcase trade is a term generally used to describe transnational unregulated and unregistered commerce.
Gerda Heck is a post-doctoral researcher in CETREN’s “Entrepreneurial Citizenship” project. Her main research interests are focused on migration and border regimes, urban studies, transnational migration, migrant networks, self-organizing, religion and new concepts of citizenship. She is a member of “kritnet ”, Network for Critical Migration- and Border- Regime Research (kritnet.org).
She received her PhD in Sociology in 2006. In her dissertation she discussed the phenomenon of undocumented immigration in Germany and the US, and mainly focused on the development of the migration regime in both states, the public discussion on the subject and the influencing thereof by relevant initiatives.
From 2006 until 2010 she conducted research in Morocco on the shifting of EU migration policy towards North African countries and the strategies of sub-Saharan migrants on the migration routes towards Europe. For this purpose she undertook several field research trips to Morocco as well as to the Spanish exclaves Ceuta and Melilla.
Within the scope of the international and interdisciplinary research project “Global Prayers – Redemption and Liberation in the City“ (http://globalprayers.info) she has been investigating since 2010 the role of the new revival church communities on the migration routes in different cities with regard to Congolese migration. To this end she conducted a multi-sited ethnographic research in Berlin (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey), Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Paris (France) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). In this research she showed how Congolese migrants establish themselves as Christians in the urban context on the migration routes: how transnational mobility, religious networks, religious belief, sacred spaces and informal economy are used by the migrants to establish themselves (temporarily) as sub-Saharan Christians in the various cities.
With her new research at CETREN she extends her previous work on the entanglement of the religious and commercial, as well as the importance of the “suitcase trade” within the Congolese diaspora. Drawing on the concept of “flexible citizenship” (Ong 1999), she will investigate the ways in which Congolese migrants and traders in Guangzhou try to establish themselves both locally and in their respective cities of residence (in Europe or Africa) and gain rights.