From Ethnic Enclave to Mainstream Entrepreneurship: Comparing Experiences on Constructions of Cultural Identities between Black and Chinese Entrepreneurs in Birmingham
In defiance of diverse attempts to construe a finite conceptual framework for entrepreneurship, since Schumpeter constructed the notion of ‘creative destruction’ in 1934 linking innovative nature of entrepreneurship to the evolutionary process of economy (Elliott, 1980), the realm of entrepreneurship has transformed its research perspectives from identifications of a uniform set of definitions to developments of a hermeneutic understanding towards the determinants of entrepreneurial creativity (Gartner, 1988). Recent advances in the discovery of entrepreneurial creativity stress the social dimensions of entrepreneurship (Shapero and Sokol, 1982), with particular attention to the emerging scene of transnational migrant entrepreneurs as a driving force to not only increase employment opportunities but also resolve social tensions in cities across Europe (Baycan-Levent and Nijkamp, 2009). In Britain a new wave of migrant entrepreneurs from dozens of locations across the globe has brought ‘super-diversity (Vertovec, 2007)’ into the theme of entrepreneurship research, exemplifying strong historical continuity of mixed embeddedness within the mainstream business environment (Ram et al., 2017; Jones et al., 2012; Ram et al., 2011). From a mixed embeddedness perspective, ethnic minority migrant entrepreneurship, as ‘a set of connections and regular patterns of interaction among people sharing common national background or migratory experiences’(Aldrich and Waldinger, 1990:3), encompasses both enclave entrepreneurs, increasingly fulfilling double roles in ethnic niches as well as middleman businesses since many ethnic enclaves evolve into multiethnic neighborhoods, and middleman minorities with increasing presences in affluent middle-class suburbs within the primary sector of mainstream economy (Zhou, 2004). In particular, there is an emerging trend of migrant entrepreneurs breaking out of their co-ethnic markets and gaining access to mainstream industries (Beckers and Blumberg, 2013; Batcan et al., 2011). Meanwhile, given the fact that culture together with identity function as two basic building blocks of ethnicity (Nagel, 2009), ethnic minority migrant entrepreneurship possesses idiosyncratic traits to further explore connections between culture and entrepreneurship. Since from Schumpeter (1934) and Weber (1930) to McClelland (1961) the association between culture and entrepreneurship have generated continued scholarly interests for decades (Hayton, 2002), with recent advances focusing on the identifications of alternative measures to Hofstede’s (1980) conceptualization of national culture (George and Zahra, 2002). Consequently cultural identity, as a never-ending cultural production process undergoing constant transformation through ‘interaction’ between self and society (Hall, 1994; Hall and Gay, 1996), is adopted to examine the ‘lived experiences (Berglund, 2006)’of ethnic minority migrant entrepreneurs breaking into modern economic sectors to shape and reshape cultural identities of both migrant and mainstream communities. This current study concentrates on the features of different categories of creativity generated through bicultural blended identities of migrant entrepreneurs on the basis of integrating perceived disparities or merging boundaries between distinct cultural perspectives (Saad, 2012), constantly reinventing identities as entrepreneurial innovations to achieve economic gains at the same time constructively transforming the globalized social, cultural and economic context (Tomlinson, 2003).
Meanwhile Birmingham, as the second largest metropole in the UK, is a ‘global (Sassen, 1988)’ city with a significant and diverse ethnic economy (Mcewan et al., 2005), which entails rich experiences of culture, migration and entrepreneurship, an ideal locality to conduct a structured investigation and identify tentative answers into the characteristics and uniqueness on the constructions of cultural identities of the emerging breakout trend of migrant entrepreneurs. In line with the national statistics in England, between 2001 and 2011 there is a steady growth of Black ethnic groups living in Birmingham, which represents over 6% of the population and over 20% of the non-white population. During the same period, it has shown a sharp increase of the estimated number of Chinese migrants arriving to Birmingham, which has almost doubled from 5,106 in 2001 to 12,712 in 2011 (ONS, 2001; 2011). It is also noted that previous study demonstrates that businesses belongs to Black ethnic groups are less likely to survive whereas Chinese businesses in particular and Asian businesses in general fares the best in the market (Robb, 2002).
Therefore, this current study focuses on the real-life entrepreneurial experiences between Black and Chinese ethnic minority groups in Birmingham to not only identify the similarities and differences between the two minority entrepreneur groups but also develop a theoretical framework of migrant entrepreneurship from the perspective on constructions of cultural identities, establishing positive interpretations of migration and culture through entrepreneurship.
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