The purpose of this paper is to examine how ethnic migrant entrepreneurs (EMEs) utilise identity work to build legitimacy in a host country. According to optimal distinctiveness theory (ODT), legitimacy is achieved by balancing conformance and distinctiveness. This paper draws on ODT in the context of ethnic migrant entrepreneurship to examine how EMEs both fit in (conformance) and maintain their uniqueness (distinctiveness) in cross-cultural settings.
This study adopts a qualitative approach utilising semi-structured interviews to examine the identity work of EMEs from three distinct countries (Indonesia, Pakistan and South Korea (henceforth Korea)) in one host country (Malaysia).
The results show that EMEs’ identity work incorporates both the blurring and strengthening of host-home country boundaries. Building on this study’s results, the authors develop a model of identity work and three propositions regarding legitimacy building through identity in the context of ethnic migrant entrepreneurship.
Through the model and propositions, this research contributes to the identity, international entrepreneurship and ethnic migrant entrepreneurship discourse by identifying the mechanisms, focus and key features of identity work for entrepreneurs operating in cross-cultural settings. In so doing, this research also offers an alternative interpretation on the apparent divergent views around identity work in the fields of organisation (advocate isomorphism) and entrepreneurship (advocate uniqueness).
Abd Hamid, H., O’Kane, C. and Everett, A.M. (2019), "Conforming to the host country versus being distinct to our home countries: Ethnic migrant entrepreneurs’ identity work in cross-cultural settings", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 919-935. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-02-2018-0097
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