The BI Business History Seminar

Ethnic business and business history: theoretical approaches and case studies

  • Starts:11:30, 4 March 2021
  • Ends:13:00, 4 March 2021
  • Location:Digital on Zoom
  • Price:Free
  • Contact:Espen Ekberg (Espen.Ekberg@bi.no)

Ethnic business and business history: theoretical approaches and case studies

Stefano Agnoletto (Visiting scholar BI)

Economic ethnic concentration is a characteristic that recurs frequently in the economic and business history with a significant pervasiveness both in chronological and spatial terms. In particular, ethnic specialization is a typical feature of many trade sectors characterized by the predominance of small business

The widespread existence of ethnic economic niches represents an intriguing, but also provocative and complex, topic for business historians. In fact, studies on the economic behavior of ethnic groups should come to terms with beliefs and stereotypes that exist in public debates which are often affected by prejudices or even racism. However, the alleged role played by ethnicity in shaping business specialization is a topic that business historians can’t skip: the processes of ethnic concentration in some business sectors is a phenomenon too widespread to be ignored.

Historians usually describe ethnic business peculiarities by referring to different cause-and-effect analyses. The core of the debate is the different evaluations of the importance given either to the ethnic/cultural factors that feature the different immigrant groups or to the structural factors that define the host society and/or the global market . In this perspective, the origins and development of an ethnic niche in a business sector can be viewed as the result of a negotiation, often conflictual, between immigrants’ ethnicity, traditions or entrepreneurial skills and the demands made, opportunities offered and limitations imposed by the host society.