This dissertation, comprising four appended papers, examines what entrepreneurs actually do in order to manage the intrinsic social complexity pertaining to relations of power and culture involved in entrepreneurial undertakings. The studies share the common interest in probing into the ways inwhich fundamental social divisions and conflicts, namely gender, ethnicity and class are inscribed into the entrepreneurs through the organization of difference (Ashcraft, 2012) and how these shape and are shaped by the identity construction processes of individual entrepreneurs. The thesis provides an empirical account of entrepreneurial identity formation and its implications on shaping differential degree and the forms of entrepreneurial agency exerted by entrepreneurs by drawing on two sets of empirical materials generated through life story narratives of seventeen immigrant women entrepreneurs and some particular family business members with Turkish origin, in their involvement with entrepreneurial practices in Sweden. In overall, the thesis approximates to the notion of the individual entrepreneur in identity terms. Three major theoretical approaches, including practice theory, identity work and the feminist intersectionality framework, lay the groundwork for thinking about the relational and contextual foundation of the individual and associated identity construction processes intraversing the contexts at different temporal and spatial scales, namely individual, organizational, familial and societal.
The thesis responds to the call for relational analysis examining the entanglement of material and symbolic resources and practices to draw a more rounded picture of entrepreneurship (Tatli, Vassilopoulou, Özbilgin, Forson, & Slutskaya, 2014). It adds to this debate by highlighting the identification processes of entrepreneurs, especially of those who have been historically and relatively marginalized in their societies. This thesis connects with studies emphasizing the socio-culturally constructed, relational and contextual nature of entrepreneurship and contributes to bridging the gap between two bifurcated streams of research in entrepreneurship-constructionist approaches, e.g., discursive/ narrative accounts with practice based perspectives. I emphasize the importance of considering both complex identification processes for the benefit of practice-based analysis and material practices and resources to the greater advantage of constructionist accounts. Throughout my thesis, I suggest that the discursive and material aspects of agency and structures are inseparable. In entrepreneurship, it is imperative to transcend symbolic and material boundaries. This way, the thesis provides complementary insights to cultural studies of entrepreneurship which emphasize access either to material or cultural representations.
My first contribution concerns the generation of rich empirical accounts ofimmigrant women entrepreneurs in the particular context of migration encompassing the two cultural scenes of Turkey, where the immigrants came from, and Sweden, where they live and enterprise. The studies in the thesis demonstrate that immigrant women entrepreneurs and immigrant family members have used creative agency to sustain their struggles of entrepreneurial identity formation and capital accumulation and have effected social change indifferent terms. By combining two streams of inquiries, which have usually been undertaken separately, studying cultural representations and what an entrepreneur would do with these representations with a focus on identity formations, the thesis contributes to the reflexive entrepreneurship scholarship by examining the entrepreneurs’ own responses to hegemonic discourses where a complex set of negotiations and diverse forms of entrepreneurship could be drawn. This forms my second contribution. Finally, the analysis also leads to a discussion of processual issues, which amount to the relative advantage (privilege) and disadvantage (marginalization) in the field of entrepreneurship. My studies suggest that inequalities do not have a static and spatial position but are a dynamic and accumulated process that defines access, mobility and investment across different fields of activities made possible by the diverse histories and practices of entrepreneurs and relevant constituents.
Jönköping: Jönköping University, International Business School , 2015. , 128 p.