Handbook of Research on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
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Handbook of Research on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

Edited by Elizabeth Chell and Mine Karataş-Özkan

This insightful Handbook focuses on behaviour, performance and relationships in small and entrepreneurial firms. It introduces a variety of contemporary topics, research methods and theoretical frameworks that will provide cutting edge analysis, stimulate thought, raise further questions and demonstrate the complexity of the rapidly-advancing field of entrepreneurship.
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Chapter 8: Gender, ethnicity and social entrepreneurship: qualitative approaches to the study of entrepreneuring

Silvia Gherardi and Manuela Perrotta


The literature on the topic of entrepreneurship and small business has diversified and developed constantly since its first formulations. In the past 30 years, moreover, an independent field of studies has developed especially in the area of economics and business studies (Busenitz et al. 2003). While it can be argued that economic theory has still not furnished a thoroughgoing definition of entrepreneurial activity (Bull and Willard 1993), one may nevertheless note that what we know about entrepreneurship derives mainly from the early and classic studies of the twentieth century. This concerns Schumpeterian theories (Schumpeter 1934), the theories on 'enterprise creation' of Collins and Moore (1964), and Knight's theory of risk (1921). According to these authors, the distinctive feature of entrepreneurial activity is a capacity for innovation. This, however, is regarded as being essentially a quality intrinsic to persons, rather than simultaneously a set of practices, so that some theoreticians have been explicit in criticizing the underlying Darwinian and heroic model of entrepreneurship. However, in recent years the debate has been enriched by new perspectives and has assumed a central role in other fields, organization studies for example. The past ten years, in fact, have seen a flourishing of approaches and perspectives 'alternative' and innovative with respect to the dominant paradigm. A first example is represented by the anthologies in the New Movements of Entrepreneurship series (Steyaert and Hjorth 2003; 2006; Hjorth and Steyaert 2004; 2009a), which present some of the more innovative qualitative research studies on entrepreneurship.

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