Conforming to the host country versus being distinct to our home countries: Ethnic migrant entrepreneurs’ identity work in cross-cultural settings

Hamizah Abd Hamid (Centre of Global Business and Digital Economy (GloBDE), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia – UKM, Bangi, Malaysia)
Conor O’Kane (Department of Management, Otago Business School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)
André M. Everett (Department of Management, Otago Business School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Publication date: 13 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

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).

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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).

Keywords

Citation

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

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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