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Title: Constructing entrepreneurial identities : the case of entrepreneurial dyads
Author: Bisignano, A.
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis investigates the processes of identity construction and identity work in entrepreneurial dyads. Entrepreneurial dyads are defined as two-person teams, in which members are bound both by a strong social tie and by a common commitment to start and manage a new business venture. The thesis builds on the work of Watson (2008) and adopts his conceptual framework for understanding how discourse shapes social identities and how these are used to inform the production of a coherent self. The business stories of three entrepreneurial dyads are used as case studies. Data were collected through both storytelling in interviews and direct observation. Entrepreneurs were asked to produce an individual account of their business story. In addition, the dyads' interactive dynamics were directly observed in their natural settings. The business stories produced by the dyads were analysed using the narrative method. First, the narrative styles of the business stories were assessed looking at elements such as plot, structure, and characterisation. This analysis allowed an understanding of the socially available discourses which provided the entrepreneurs with a system of meanings that shaped their presentations. Second, a process of narrative deconstruction allowed the identification of their locally meaningful discourse, uniquely created within each dyad by social interaction. What emerged shows that the entrepreneurs recounted not only traditional business stories, but enacted a unique discourse of 'being entrepreneurial'. A meta-level cross-case comparison of the different experiences of each of the three dyads facilitated the identification of distinct patterns. The tension between change and obligation is identified as the mechanism that governs the processes of identity work and the construction of social identities. On the one hand, individuals actively engage in producing original discourses and in shaping the presentations of their selves. On the other hand, they deal with an established sense of obligation. The latter encompasses both the expectations that society associates with the social structure (e.g. marriage; company), and a unique system of meanings that each dyad constructs through social interaction. The processes of identity construction and identity work are uniquely identified through the use of linguistic portals. These are theorised as cue words that populate the accounts of the entrepreneurs and signal some reflection on aspects of identity during the narration of a story. Watson's (2008) framework has been expanded from undertaking this research and generating these insights. In doing identity work, individuals transfer features of their unique and locally meaningful discourses in their selves and also in other social identities (e.g. mother, daughter, boyfriend). This occurs because of an obligation both towards society and towards the community the dyads created. The ability to balance agency and this dual obligation represents the element of coherence across different presentations. The thesis also expands Watson's five categories of social identity, through adding communal social identities in terms of those presentations of selves locally meaningful within a unique interaction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available