Taking stock and moving forward in research on refugee entrepreneurship: A systematic review of the current field and future research directions

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    Problem: Refugee entrepreneurship has recently garnered a growing academic and political interest around the world. The rate of scientific publication has soared in the last few years due to the scholarly urgency on the topic following the ‘global refugee crises’. Nevertheless, the research field is currently underdeveloped with existing knowledge dispersed across various and often disconnected disciplines, which adopt different concepts, sample characteristics and methodologies. This makes it complex for interested scholars to find guidance in identifying compelling research opportunities. Purpose: This paper is a formative academic endeavour to systematically overview the current knowledge on the phenomenon of refugee entrepreneurship and provides direction for future developments. The rationalisation for this effort stems from the recurrent calls for establishing the scientific domain of ‘refugee entrepreneurship’ as its own field of scholarship. Methodology: The methodological framework, that is, systematic review (Tranfield et al., 2003), includes a total of 90 academic papers dealing with entrepreneurial self-employment and small business activities of refugees since the mid-1980s, when the first scholarly efforts on the topic emerged. Findings: The analysis reveals that current research is characterized by an over-representation of social science scholars, a large use of ethnographic and descriptive methods, limited theorisation and strong reliance on ethnic minority entrepreneurship theories. The absence of few influential outlets for disseminating results and limited efforts of collaboration among scholars have resulted in a lack of coherent knowledge about refugee entrepreneurship. The domination of social scientists has particularly affected the research focus and direction. While a significant body of the literature focuses on the characteristics and sociocultural and structural determinants of refugee entrepreneur/ship, very little is known regarding entrepreneurial decisions, actions and processes. Originality/value: This paper provides a research ground that will serve to build meaningful theory, identify coherent assumptions and questions and form the ontological and epistemological base for the scientific domain of ‘refugee entrepreneurship’. Research direction: Future research benefits from the focus on the entrepreneurial agency, behaviour and process of refugees.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDiversity and Entrepreneurship
    EditorsVanessa Ratten, Leo-Paul Dana
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    Number of pages40
    ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-29308-5
    ISBN (Print)9780367263942
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Business Administration
    • Information Systems, Social aspects


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