'Migrant' Female Entrepreneurs in Vienna

What is the role of transnational activities for social positioning and mobility?


  • Univ.-Prof. Petra Dannecker (Department of Development Studies)
  • Mag.a Alev Cakir, MA (Department of Political Science)
  • Mag.a Alexandra Heis (starting April 2016)

Fields of Research

The focus of this research project is on female entrepreneurs with immigrant background in Vienna. On the one hand, we mean actors who engage in entrepreneurial activities, who are defined or constructed as migrants, and so as the mobile ‘others’, and thus contribute to social change, social negotiations and transformations, as well as question consciously or unconsciously dominant (sedentary) identity politics. On the other hand, we also mean female entrepreneurs who actively use these attributions to position themselves economically in certain sectors and areas as well as women who are denied other employment opportunities due to these attributions.

Positioning of the Research within Mobility Discourse

Migration and thus female ‘migrants’ symbolically stand for globalization processes and the associated increase in mobility. However, migration is not considered in the sense of a new phenomenon, but rather as an integral part of historical and social transformations. Moreover, migration is not understood as a deviation (and settled existence as norm), but as a political and social movement that follows its own rules and transnational practices, which, however, are negotiated in the context of social and economic structures. 

The project differentiates itself from approaches which design entrepreneurial activities of migrants in the context of ethnic economies and thus construct not only ethnically homogeneous groups, but also remain restricted in nation-state categories. Instead, this project examines – with respect to transnational migration research and from the perspective of the actors – the extent to which transnational activities influence the perception of the so-called host country, the strategy of female entrepreneurs as well as processes of identity formation, and analyzes to what extent processes of negotiation are structured in this context.Gender represents an important category for analysis, not only because entrepreneurial activities of women with immigrant background in Vienna are almost never discussed in scientific literature, but also because the very design of the female migrant as 'opressed' Other characterizes processes of social negotiation. But that does not mean that other categories such as class or race and their intersectionality do not constitute important analytical categories as well. In this context, migration feminist approaches will be used in particular.In methodological terms, the actors and their experience realm are in the center of the epistemological interest. That is why mainly qualitative methods, especially biographical interviews and participant observations, will be applied in order to examine and contextualize the structures of meaning of the actors.The proposed epistemological shift of the theoretical framework and the inclusion of different forms of mobility in an analytical framework in the context of this subproject, meaning particularly the focus on strategies and practices of mobility of the actors which also includes objects or media, provide links to the other projects.

Associated Partners

  • Dr. Maren Borkert (Department of Development Studies, University of Vienna)