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Making sense of mixed-embeddedness in migrant informal enterprising: The role of community and capital

Angelo P. Bisignano (Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)
Imad El-Anis (Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 10 December 2018

Issue publication date: 5 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to discuss how informal migrant entrepreneurs with different legal statuses interpret their mixed-embeddedness in social and economic contexts. Legal status represents a key determinant in shaping accessible social networks and market opportunities that in turn influence entrepreneurial choices.


The paper adopts an interpretative stance to explore how migrant entrepreneurs interpret mixed-embeddedness. It draws on the empirical evidence from a cross-sectional sample of 26 asylum seekers that engaged with enterprising activities in the city of Nottingham in the UK. A recursive hermeneutic process guided the iterative readings of the accounts to develop theoretical insights on how these agents reinvent their relationship with structure.


A novel theoretical framework emerges from the data analysis to present how these particular migrants use understandings of community and notions of capital to make sense of their mixed-embeddedness. The main theoretical contribution of the framework is to illustrate how groups with different legal statuses produce unique interpretations of mixed-embeddedness. This, in turn, reflects onto specific forms of enterprising and innovative entrepreneurial choices. The framework also produces an empirical contribution as it re-centres the analysis of mixed-embeddedness around the migrant entrepreneur from previous meso- and macro-level perspectives that dominated recent research.

Research limitations/implications

The paper expands knowledge on the notion of mixed-embeddedness by providing insights on how informal migrant entrepreneurs make sense of it. This can form the basis for allowing scholars to address empirically how migrant entrepreneurs reconcile their embeddedness in both social and economic contexts. In terms of practical implications, the paper paves the way for policy-makers to re-evaluate the current approach to the right of asylum seekers to pursue entrepreneurial activities.


The notion of mixed-embeddedness is central to research on informal migrant enterprising. Nevertheless, the concept remains fuzzy and difficult to operationalise. The paper offers an opportunity to understand how migrant entrepreneurs make sense of mixed-embeddedness so that future scholars can better explore how mixed-embeddedness reconciles agency and structure.



Bisignano, A.P. and El-Anis, I. (2019), "Making sense of mixed-embeddedness in migrant informal enterprising: The role of community and capital", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 974-995.



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