Entrepreneurship across Generations
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Entrepreneurship across Generations

Narrative, Gender and Learning in Family Business

Eleanor Hamilton

Entrepreneurship Across Generations examines dimensions of identity, gender and learning to understand the complex fabric of family business. An interpretation of narratives from two generations in five families constitutes entrepreneurship as an inherently social, rather than individual, phenomenon.
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Chapter 3: Researching family business: towards narrative

Narrative, Gender and Learning in Family Business

Eleanor Hamilton


If we are to challenge the gender blindness of our research methods in entrepreneurship then we need to address ‘the central problem of what it could mean to write the feminine in research accounts’ (Pullen, 2007, p. 331). Telling the story behind the research has been described as a common tradition in feminist research, a ‘tradition of invitation and joint inquiry’ (Fletcher, 2000, p. 8) which helps readers to understand how the research questions arose and why they are addressed in the way they are. It allows readers to connect to the chosen perspectives and set them alongside other possibilities. This chapter presents the story of embarking on the research study introduced in the first chapter, showing its emergent, fluid and often serendipitous journey. It argues for understanding the research process as social practice mediated by narrative, going beyond an instrumental process of providing a reflexive element in research. A researcher’s story is often required to be tidied and rendered quasi-scientific, sacrificing its own narrative power. This chapter tells the story of the influences and events which led to narrative becoming a central feature of this study. This initial research activity was an iterative process between different literatures and conversations in the field with people in family business, each part informing the other. So whilst engaging with the work of oral historians was demonstrating the importance of the story of people’s everyday lives within the wider story of the time they lived in, the power of narrative was being reinforced by my early conversations with family businesses.

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