How do disabled people form entrepreneurial identity?

Kasperova, Eva (2017) How do disabled people form entrepreneurial identity? (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This study examines how disabled people become entrepreneurs, using the concept of ‘entrepreneurial identity’ as a theoretical lens for explaining the effects of disability on venture creation. The original theoretical contribution is a novel conceptualisation of entrepreneurial identity, one that applies to all entrepreneurs whilst including the experiences of disabled people and people with long-term impairments and health conditions. Drawing on a critical realist philosophy, and a stratified, emergent ontology, entrepreneurial identity is defined as a personal power to create a new venture that succeeds in the marketplace. Entrepreneurial identity, as a causal power, is a tendency that may be possessed unexercised, exercised unrealised and realised unperceived. Although most people have the potential to become an entrepreneur, not everyone can, or is motivated to, exercise that power because of other countervailing powers – personal, material and social. Theorising identity as a causal power can account for both stability and change in identity formation, in contrast to studies that define entrepreneurial identity in terms of fixed characteristics determining behaviour, or as a dynamic process encompassing narrative performances. The empirical material comprises entrepreneur and stakeholder interview data, online visual data and shadowing field notes. The analysis reveals that the emergence of entrepreneurial identity presupposes three lower-level personal powers that must be exercised simultaneously: (1) the power to conceive of a new venture idea; (2) the power to commit to venture creation; and (3) the power to acquire new venture legitimacy. Depending on circumstances, disability can both enable and constrain individual capacity to realise the three powers, with implications for venture creation. The findings highlight the role of human relations with nature and the material culture of artefacts as well as society in the emergence of entrepreneurial identity. This novel theoretical framework is more inclusive in terms of the multiplicity of mechanisms at different identity strata and levels of reality that it can examine whilst accommodating the alternative approaches.

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