Placing Migrant Entrepreneurship: Migrant Economy Debates through New Spatial Lenses

Hugo Valenzuela-Garcia, Berta Güell, Sònia Parella, José Luis Molina, Miranda Jessica Lubbers


The category of space is essential in migration studies and it is implicitly present in the literature about migrant entrepreneurs. However, there is a lack of understanding of how the shifting nature of space as a result of the transnational dynamics of late capitalism’s work developments has affected the way migrant economies are framed and apprehended. Whilst initial debates tended to present a static, bidirectional, circumscribed notion of space considering migrant businesses within the logics of inclusion/exclusion in ethnic neighbourhoods, the latest approaches usually illustrate it as dynamic, ductile and liquid thanks to the influence of globalisation and the paradigms of mobility and circulation. This article seeks to synthesize and critically review mainstream literature on migrant entrepreneurship from a spatial perspective and reflect on the shifting nature of the ontology of space. It highlights the context in which each theoretical approach was coined with empirical case studies and points out its own limitations in dialogue with the evolution of migrant economies’ debates. Finally, the conclusions present both a summary and a proposal for constructing a more accurate theoretical framework for the study of future migrant economies through new spatial lenses.


space; place; migrant economy; transnationalism; globalisation


Agnew, J.A. (2011). Space and Place. In J.A. Agnew & D. Livingstone (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Geographical Knowledge (pp. 316–330). London: Sage.

Aldrich, H. (1975). Ecological Succession in Racially Changing Neighborhoods: A Review of the Literature. Urban Affairs Review, 10(3), 327–348.

Aliaga-Isla, R., & Rialp, A. (2013). Systematic Review of Immigrant Entrepreneurship Literature: Previous Findings and Ways Forward. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 25(9–10), 819–844.

Allen, R., & Busse, E. (2016). The Social Side of Ethnic Entrepreneur Breakout: Evidence from Latino Immigrant Business Owners. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39(4), 653–670.

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large. Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Audebert, C. (2007). Introduction. Penser l’entreprenariat ethnique. De nouvelles orientations scientifiques pour des enjeux sociétaux réactualisés. In C. Audebert & E. Ma Mung (Eds.), Les nouveaux territoires migratoires: Entre logiques globales et dynamiques locales (pp. 81–86). Bilbao: Université de Deusto/HumanitarianNet.

Aytar, V., & Rath, J. (2012). Selling Ethnic Neighborhoods. The Rise of Neighborhoods as Places of Leisure and Consumption. London: Routledge.

Bagwell, S. (2015). Transnational Entrepreneurship amongst Vietnamese Businesses in London. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(2), 329–349.

Barros Nock, M., & Valenzuela-García, H. (Eds). (2013). Retos y Estrategias del Empresario Ètnico. Estudios de Caso de Empresarios Latinos en los Estados Unidos y Empresarios Inmigrantes en España. México: CIESAS, Publicaciones de la Casa Chata.

Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization: The Human Consequences. New York: Columbia University Press.

Bertoncello, B. (2009). Entrepreneurs migrants africains à Marseille: jeux d’acteurs pour activités commerciales internationales. In G. Cortès & L. Faret (Eds.), Les circulations transnationales. Lire les turbulences migratoires contemporaines (pp. 165–174). Paris: Armand Colin.

Besserer, F. (1999). Estudios Transnacionales y Ciudadanía Transnacional. In G. Mummert (Ed.), Fronteras Fragmentadas. Identidades múltiples (pp. 215–238). México: Colegio de Michoacán-CIDEM.

Bonacich, E. (1973). A Theory of Middleman Minorities. American Sociological Review, 38(5), 583–594.

Bonacich, E., & Modell, J. (1980). The Economic Basis of Ethnic Solidarity: Small Business in the Japanese American Community. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Bredeloup, S. (2013). The Figure of the Adventurer as an African Migrant. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 25(2), 170–182.

Breton, R. (1964). Institutional Completeness of Ethnic Communities and the Personal Relations of Immigrants. American Journal of Sociology, 70(2), 193–205. Retrieved from

Ceccagno, A. (2017). City Making and Global Labor Regimes. Chinese Immigrants and Italy’s Fast Fashion Industry. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ceccagno, A. (2015). The Mobile Emplacement. Chinese Migrants in Italian Industrial Districts. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 41(7), 1111–1130.

Cortès, G. (2009). Migraciones, Construcciones Transnacionales y Práctias de Circulación: Un Enfoque desde el Territorio. Párrafos Geográficos, 8(1), 35–53.

Cortès, G., & Faret, L. (2009). Les Circulations Transnationales. Lire les Turbulences Migratoires Contemporaines. París: Armand Colin.

Chen, W., & Tan, J. (2009). Understanding Transnational Entrepreneurship Through a Network Lens: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(5), 1079–1091.

Davis, M. (1999). Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and The Imagination of Disaster. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Dijst, M.J., & van Kempen, R. (1991). Minority Business and the Hidden Dimension: The Influence of Urban Contexts on the Development of Ethnic Enterprise. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 82(2), 128–138.

Ettlinger, N., & Sangcheol, K. (1994). Comparative Analysis of U.S. Urban Labor Markets: Asian Immigrant Groups in New York and Los Angeles. Tijdschrift voor Economischeen en Sociale Geografie, 85(5), 417–433.

Faist, T. (2000). The Volume and Dynamics of International Migration and Transnational Social Spaces. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Fernández, R.M., & Su, C. (2004). Space in the Study of Labor Markets. Annual Review of Sociology, 30, 545–569. Retrieved from

Friedman, T.L. (2005). The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Garcés, A.H. (2011). De Enclave a Centralidad. Espacio Urbano, Comercio y Migración Peruana en Santiago de Chile. Gazeta de Antropología, 27(2), article 38. Available at:

Geertz, C. (1978). The Bazaar Economy: Information and Search in Peasant Marketing. The American Economic Review, 68(2), 28–32. Retrieved from

Gieryn, T.F. (2000). A Space for Place in Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 26, 463–496. Retrieved from

Glick-Schiller, N., & Çaglar, A. (2013). Locating Migrant Pathways of Economic Emplacement: Thinking beyond the Ethnic Lens. Ethnicities, 13(4), 494–514.

Glick-Schiller, N., & Çaglar, A. (2016). Displacement, Emplacement and Migrant Newcomers: Rethinking Urban Sociabilities within Multiscalar Power. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 23(1), 17–34.

Granovetter, M.S. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. The American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380. Retrieved from

Gualda Caballero, E. (2012). Migración Circular en Tiempos de Crisis. Mujeres de Europa del Este y Africanas en la Agricultura de Huelva. PAPERS. Revista de Sociologia, 97(3), 613–640.

Güell, B. (2012). Els Negocis dels Pakistanesos al Barri del Raval a Barcelona. Motius i Estratègies per a l’Autoocupació. MA Thesis. Dipòsit Digital de la Universitat de Barcelona. Available at

Güell, B., Parella, S., & Valenzuela-Garcia, H. (2015). La Economía Étnica en Perspectiva: Del Anclaje a la Fluidez en la Urbe Global. Alteridades, 25(50), 33–46.

Harvey, D. (1989). The Condition of Postmodernity. An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Cambridge, MA & Oxford: Blackwell.

Hily, M-A. (2009). L’usage de la notion de “circulation migratoire”. In G. Cortès & L. Faret (Eds.), Les circulations transnationales. Lire les turbulences migratoires contemporaines (pp. 21–28). Paris: Armand Colin.

Hoerder, D. (2012). Transnational – Transregional – Translocal: Transcultural. In C. Vargas-Silva (Ed.), Handbook of Research Methods in Migration (pp. 69–91). Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar.

Itzigsohn, J. Dore Cabral, C., Hernandez Medina, E., & Vazquez, O. (1999). Mapping Dominican Transnationalism: Narrow and Broad Transnational Practices. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(2), 316–339.

Kaplan, D.H., & Li, W. (2006). Landscapes of the Ethnic Economy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Kaplan, D.H. (1997). The Creation of an Ethnic Economy: Indochinese Business Expansion in Saint Paul. Economic Geography, 73(2), 214–233.

Kloosterman, R.C., & Rath, J.C. (2002). Working on the Fringes: Immigrant Businesses, Economic Integration and Informal Practices. In NUTEK, Marginalisering eller Integration. Invandrares Foeretagande I Svensk Retorik Och Practik (pp. 177–188). Stockholm: NUTEK.

Kloosterman, R., van der Leun, J., & Rath, J. (1999). Mixed Embeddedness: (In)formal Economic Activities and Immigrant Businesses in The Netherlands. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 23(2), 252–266.

Kyle, D.J. (1999). The Otavalo Trade Diaspora: Social Capital and Transnational Entrepreneurship. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(2), 422–446.

Kyle, D.J. (2000). Transnational Peasants: Migrations, Networks, and Ethnicity in Andean Ecuador. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Landolt, P. (2008). The Transnacional Geographies of Immigrant Politics: Insights from a Comparative Study of Migrant Grassroots Organizing. The Sociological Quarterly, 49(1), 53–77. Retrieved from

Landolt, P., Autler, L., & Baires, S. (1999). From Hermano Lejano to Hermano Mayor: The Dialectics of Salvadoran Transnationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(2), 290–315.

Levitt, P., & Glick-Schiller, N. (2004). Conceptualizing Simultaneity: A Transnational Social Field Perspective on Society. The International Migration Review, 38(3), 1002–1039. Retrieved from

Lévy, J. (1994). L’espace légitime. Paris: Presses de la Fondation de Sciences Politiques.

Lévy, J. (2001). Os Novos Espaços da Mobilidade. Geographia, 3(6), 7–17.

Light, I. (1972). Ethnic Enterprise in America: Business and Welfare Among Chinese, Japanese, and Blacks. Berkeley, Los Angeles & London: University of California Press.

Light, I.H. (2007). Economías Étnicas. In J. Beltrán, L. Oso, & N. Ribas Mateos (Eds.), Empresariado Étnico en España (pp. 41–68). Madrid: Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales y CIDOB.

Light, I.H., & Bhachu, P. (Eds.) (1993). Immigration and Entrepreneurship. Culture, Capital, and Ethnic Networks. New Brunswick (USA) & London (UK): Transactions Publishers.

Light, I.H., & Gold, S.J. (2000). Ethnic Economies. San Diego: Academic Press*.

Logan, J.R. (2012). Making a Place for Space: Spatial Thinking in Social Science. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, 507–524.

Ma Mung, E. (1992). Dispositif économique et ressources spatiales: éléments d’une économie de diáspora. Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 8(3), 175–193.

Ma Mung, E. (1996). Entreprise économique et appartenance éthnique. Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 12(2), 211–233. Retrieved from

Ma Mung, E., Dorai, K., & Hily, M-A. (1998). La circulation migratoire. Bilan des travaux. Migration Études, 84, 1–12.

Ma Mung, E. (2009). Introduction. In G. Cortès & L. Faret (Eds.), Les circulations transnationales. Lire les turbulences migratoires contemporaines (pp. 139–142). Paris: Armand Colin.

Miera, F. (2008). Transnational Strategies of Polish Migrant Entrepreneurs in Trade and Small Business in Berlin. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 34(5), 753–770.

Missaoui, L. (1995). Généralisation du commerce transfrontalier: Petit ici, Notables là-bas. Revue Européenne des Migrations Internationales, 11(1), 53–75. Retrieved from

Molina, J.L., Lerner, J., Lubbers, M.J., & Díaz, A. (2013). Trasnacionalismo, Negocios Étnicos y Crisis Económica en Cataluña. In M. Barros Nock & H. Valenzuela García (Eds.), Retos y Estrategias del Empresario Étnico. Estudios de Caso de Empresarios Latinos en los Estados Unidos y Empresarios Inmigrantes en España (pp. 175–198). México DF: CIESAS, Publicaciones de la Casa Chata.

Moreras, J. (2005). Ravalistán? Islam y Configuración Comunitaria entre los Paquistaníes en Barcelona. Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, 68, 119–132. Retrieved from

Newland, K. (2009). Circular Migration and Human Development. Human Development Research Paper 2009/42: United Nations Development Programme. Available at:

Pécoud, A. (2010). What is Ethnic in an Ethnic Economy? International Review of Sociology, 20(1), 59–76.

Péraldi, M., Foughali, N., & Spinosa, N. (1995). Le marché des pauvres, espace commercial et espace public. Revue européenne de migrations internationales, 11(1), 77–97. Retrieved from

Péraldi, M. (2005). Algerian Routes: Emancipation, Deterritorialisation and Transnationalism through Suitcase Trade. History and Anthropology, 16(1), 47–61.

Piore, M.J. (1972). Notes for a Theory of Labour Market Stratification. Working Paper Department of Economics, 95 (Oct.). Massachusetts: MIT. Retrieved from

Portes, A., & DeWind, J. (2004). A Cross-Atlantic Dialogue: The Progress of Research and Theory in the Study of International Migration. International Migration Review, 38(3), 828–851.

Portes, A., Guarnizo, L.E., & Haller, W.J. (2002). Transnational Entrepreneurs: An Alternative Form of Immigrant Economic Adaptation. American Sociological Review, 67(2), 278–298.

Portes, A., & Jensen, L. (1989). The Enclave and the Entrants: Patterns of Ethnic Enterprise in Miami before and after Mariel. American Sociological Review, 54(6), 929–949. Retrieved from

Portes, A., & Manning, R.D. (1986). The Immigrant Enclave: Theory and Empirical Examples. In S. Olzak & Joane (Eds.), Competitive Ethnic Relations (pp. 47–68). Orlando (Fl): Academic Press.

Ritzer, G. (2007). The Globalization of Nothing 2. Thousand Oaks, London & New Dehli: Pine Forge Press, Sage Publications.

Robertson, R. (1995). Glocalization: Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity. In M. Featherstone, S. Lash and R. Robertson (Eds.), Global Modernities. London: Sage.

Rusinovic, K. (2008). Transnational Embeddedness: Transnational Activities and Networks among First- and Second-Generation Immigrant Entrepreneurs in The Netherlands. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 34(3), 431–451.

Sassen, S. (1991). The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

Sassen, S. (1994). Ethnicity and Space in the Global City: A New Frontier? In S. Dumm (Ed.), Managing Divided Cities. London: Rybum Publishing & Keele University Press.

Sassen, S. (2005). The Global City: Introducing a Concept. Brown Journal of World Affairs, XI(2), 27–43. Retrieved from

Schmoll, C., & Semi, G. (2013). Shadow Circuits: Urban Spaces and Mobilities across the Mediterranean. Identities, 20(4), 377–392.

Sempere, J.D. (2000). El Tránsito de Argelinos por el Puerto de Alicante. Investigaciones Geográficas, 24, 111–130.

Shin, H.R. (2017). The Territoriality of Ethnic Enclaves: Dynamics of Transnational Practices and Geopolitical Relations within and beyond a Korean Transnational Enclave in New Malden, London. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(3), 756–772.

Soja, E.W. (1989). Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso Press.

Solano, G. (2016a). Multifocal Entrepreneurial Practices: The Case of Moroccan Import/Export Businesses in Milan. Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 29(2), 176–198.

Solano, G. (2016b). Immigrant Self-employment and Transnational Practices: The Case of Moroccan Entrepreneurs in Amsterdam and Milan (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Amsterdam & University of Milan Bicocca: Amsterdam & Milan.

Tarrius, A. (1992). Les Fourmis d’Europe: Migrants Riches, Migrants Pauvres et Nouvelles Villes Internationales. Paris: L’Harmattan.

Tarrius, A. (1995). Naissance d’une colonie: un comptoir commercial à Marseille. Revue européenne de migrations internationales, 11(1), 21–52. Retrieved from

Tarrius, A. (2000). Leer, Describir, Interpretar las Circulaciones Migratorias: Conveniencia de la Noción de “Territorio Circulatorio”. Los Nuevos Hábitos de la Identidad. Relaciones. Estudios de Historia y Sociedad, XXI, 83, 39–66. Available at:

Tarrius, A. (2009). Intérêt et faisabilité de l’approche des territoires des circulations transnationales. In G. Cortès and L. Faret (Eds.), Les circulations transnationales. Lire les turbulences migratoires contemporaines (pp. 43–51). Paris: Armand Colin.

Valenzuela-Garcia, H. (2010). Pecunia Ex Machina, el Emprendedor Pakistaní en la Ciudad de Barcelona. Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, 92, 185–206. Retrieved from

Valenzuela García, H. (2013). Guerra de Sombrillas: Enclave Ètnico Indio, Economía Bazar y Conflicto Potencial en la Costa Catalana". In M. Barros Nock & H. Valenzuela García (Eds.), Retos y Estrategias del Empresario Ètnico Contemporáneo. Estudios de Caso de Empresarios Latinos en Estados Unidos y Empresarios Ètnicos en España. México, DF: CIESAS.

Vargas-Silva, C. (2012). Introduction. In C. Vargas-Silva (Ed.), Handbook of Research Methods in Migration (pp. 7–25). Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar.

Vertakova, Y., & Risin, I. (2015). Clustering of Socio-Economic Space: Theoretical Approaches and Russian Experience (22nd International Economic Conference/IECS 2015 “Economic Prospects in the Context of Growing Global and Regional Interdependencies”. Procedia Economics and Finance, 27, 538–547.

Vertovec, S. (1999). Conceiving and Researching Transnationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22(2), 447–462.

Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and Its Implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024–1054.

Volery, T. (2007). Ethnic Entrepreneurship: A Theoretical Framework. In L-P. Dana (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship. A Co-evolutionary View on Resource Management (pp. 30–41). Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar Publishing.

Wang, Q. (2013). Constructing a Multilevel Spatial Approach in Ethnic Entrepreneurship Studies. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 19(1), 97–113.

Werbner, P. (1987). Enclave Economies and Family Firms: Pakistani Traders in a British City. In J.S. Eades (Ed.), Migrants, Workers and the Social Order (pp.213–233). ASA Monographs 26. London: Tavistock.

Werbner, P. (2001). Metaphors of Spatiality and Networks in the Plural City: A Critique of the Ethnic Enclave Economy Debate. Sociology, 35(3), 671–693.

Williamson, R. (2015). Towards a Multi-scalar Methodology: The Challenges of Studying Social Transformation and International Migration. In S. Castles, D. Ozkul, and M.A. Cubas (Eds.), Social Transformation and Migration: National and Local Experiences in South Korea, Turkey, Mexico and Australia. Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship Series. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wilson, K., & Portes, A. (1980). Immigrants Enclaves: An Analysis of the Labor Market Experiences of Cubans in Miami. American Journal of Sociology, 86(2), 295–319. Retrieved from

Yeung, H.W. (2009). Transnationalizing Entrepreneurship: A Critical Agenda for Economic Geography. Progress in Human Geography, 33(2), 210–235.

Xiang, B. (2013). Multi-scalar Ethnography: An Approach for Critical Engagement with Migration and Social Change. Ethnography, 14(3), 282–299.

Zhou, M. (2004). Revisiting Ethnic Entrepreneurship: Convergencies, Controversies, and Conceptual Advancements. International Migration Review, 38(3), 1040–1074.

Zhou, Y. (1998). How Do Places Matter? A Comparative Study of Chinese Ethnic Economies in Los Angeles and New York City. Urban Geography, 19(6), 531–553.

DOI: 10.6092/issn.1971-8853/8619


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Hugo Valenzuela-Garcia, Berta Güell, Sònia Parella, José Luis Molina, Miranda Jessica Lubbers

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.