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Accepted Paper:

'To have or not to have': Reflecting on 'Opportunity Structures' as a Way to Theorize Entrepreneurship in Central Asia  
Philipp Schroeder (Nazarbayev University)


My contribution proposes a way to refine our theorization of entrepreneurship in Central Asia. It does so by bringing into conversation one strand of theory prevalent in entrepreneurship studies, the 'individual-opportunity nexus' (Shane 2003), with another strand of theory prevalent in criminal sociology, which (conveniently similarly) is called 'opportunity structures' (Merton 1995). I will argue that integrating these two distinct theoretical positions enhances our understanding of the ways in which motivations and sociocultural aspects are associated with the perception, availability, and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities, particularly in settings of so-called ‘emerging economies’.

Drawing on ethnographic data gathered during various long-term fieldwork projects across Central Asia since 2013, my contribution will illustrate key synergies and potentials for future work that emerge from such a transdisciplinary perspective on entrepreneurial opportunity structures. These include, for example, a refined sense of the situated but shifting notions of what ‘success’ and being a ‘good entrepreneur’ mean; a widened focus on how the distribution of local opportunities is impacted by multiple intersecting classifications of identity, gender, generation, or class; and a more processual take on how entrepreneurs adjust to more or less rapidly expanding or narrowing opportunity structures.

Beyond theoretical considerations, ‘opportunity structures’ is presented as suitable for team research efforts based on its conceptual openness, for mixed methods approaches due to its balance of structural and agentive aspects, and for applied research ambitions that seek to connect more directly with entrepreneurship practitioners.

Panel T22ANT
Conceptualising Entrepreneurship: Ethnicity, Gender, Piety and other Sociocultural Aspects of Commercial Environments across Central Asia
  Session 1 Friday 7 June, 2024, -