Huriye Aygören (2015)

Entrepreneurial identity formation-in-practice: Immigrant women entrepreneurs' lived practices and experiences within gender, ethnicity and class relations

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.