Edited by Yvonne McNulty and Jan Selmer
In this chapter, we provide an overview of the conceptual development of business expatriates over the past 50 years. We do so in light of the rapid growth in new forms of expatriates and other types of international work, and due to an increasing proliferation of terms and sloppy application of concepts in the field of expatriate studies most especially over the last decade. Our goal is to narrow the focus to establish construct clarity and to develop a theory-specific statement about business expatriates. Our intention is three-fold: (1) to illustrate poor construct clarity by demonstrating that the word ‘expatriate’ no longer adequately describes the concept it claims to investigate in management studies; (2) to assist the field of expatriate studies to be clearer about whom it is actually researching; and, (3) to stimulate and provoke a necessary debate towards improving conceptualization of the business expatriate concept. We begin by defining expatriates more broadly and providing an overview of the categorization of international work experiences. We then critique the conceptualization of business expatriates by first discussing the problem of terminological confusion in the field of expatriate studies in general and then developing a clearer theory-specific statement about business expatriates in particular. Next, we examine business expatriates in the literature and categorize them into two streams – organization-assigned expatriates (AEs) and self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) – including in each stream their various types and forms. Critiquing the literature to determine the distinction between business expatriates and sojourners, migrants and business travellers follows this. Lastly we draw some conclusions and provide a glossary of terms for future research.
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