Seeing entrepreneurship : visual ethnographies of embodied entrepreneurs
In the last twenty years, the term entrepreneurship has become of significant importance in political and cultural spheres promulgated as a source of economic growth and a solution to unemployment. While economics has been unable to model entrepreneurship mathematically, governments remain concerned with "picking winners" and consequently a variety of psychological approaches including trait, psychodynamic and cognitive understandings have been forwarded in an attempt to identify entrepreneurs. These studies are problematic as they treat entrepreneurs as isolated individuals who are disconnected from their contexts, and as a result these approaches are devoid of cultural, historical or social understandings. In an attempt to overcome these problems, a number of researchers have applied an approach known as social constructionism, which directs attention towards the meaning-making processes between individuals in context. These studies focus solely on meaning-making in linguistic dimensions and do not account for entrepreneurs as "embodied" individuals who exist in a material and visual context, which may enable or constrain the meanings they are able to create. This thesis therefore attempted to address this gap by examining entrepreneurs as "embodied rhetoricians" through a novel methodology known as visual ethnography. The findings from three ethnographic case studies suggest that entrepreneurs use a range of visual tools to "make" meaning and "give" meaning to others in their contexts, including their dress, appearance of physical settings, and physical artefacts such as high-status vehicles, which allude to wider meanings in the social and cultural domain. The findings also indicate that verbal and visual meanings must align in order to be most effective in persuading others of the legitimacy of the business venture. Finally, rather than understanding entrepreneurs as isolated individuals, the findings point to the importance of understanding entrepreneurship as a relational process where entrepreneurs attempt to develop meanings with those around them and in relation to their social contexts. The wider contributions of this thesis are outlined and discussed, including implications for policy-makers. The limitations of this study are then examined and suggestions for future research are outlined.