Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Ethnic Entrepreneurship as an Integrating Factor in Civil Society and a Gate to Religious Tolerance: A Spotlight on Turkish Entrepreneurs in Romania

Academic journal article Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies

Ethnic Entrepreneurship as an Integrating Factor in Civil Society and a Gate to Religious Tolerance: A Spotlight on Turkish Entrepreneurs in Romania

Article excerpt

This paper addresses the question of ethnic entrepreneurship in relation to religious identity and multiculturalism in civil society and proposes a spotlight on Turkish entrepreneurs in Romania, as a relevant example of the benefits of increasing cultural diversity and opportunities to learn from different cultures and traditions. It aims at empirically investigating whether the distinct ethnic features of Turkish entrepreneurs, especially their religion, influence their business performance in Romania and their integration in the host country's civil society. The information for this case study has been collected through in-depth interviews with top representatives of Turkish-Tartar minority associations in Romania and of Turkish Businessman Association (TIAD), and combined with statistical data from various sources. Several characteristics have been considered in our research, with a focus on business performance, religion and civil society. So far ethnic entrepreneurship issue has been approached in Romanian scientific research only indirectly or partially. Our paper singles out this issue and opens the door for further interdisciplinary research and dialogue.

Key Words: ethnic entrepreneurship, religion, civil society, cultural diversity, Turkish entrepreneurs, Romania, statistical data, in-depth interviews

1. Introduction. Why Turkish entrepreneurs?

Talking about ethnic and religious diversity within a country and about multiculturalism in our time is not new. According to the 2004 Human Development Report, most of the world's countries experience a significant degree of cultural diversity: the homogeneity of religion, nationality and culture are nowadays the exception rather than the rule (Figure 1). People with different linguistic traditions, religions, and so on, live together in the same area. Consequently, peaceful co-existence of all people, regardless of their faith, culture or nationality, is today one of the biggest concerns of humankind.

As a recognition of the ever-increasing cultural diversity and of importance of reducing communication gaps between religions, cultures and nations, the European Commission has proposed that 2008 should be the 'European Year of Intercultural Dialogue'. Cultural diversity in Europe is considered to be a unique advantage for economic and social development when combined with variety in cultural heritage. Better knowledge of other cultures is seen as a necessary first step for any particular culture's acceptance and fruitful cooperation.

Two issues are of major interest in this context: (1) the contribution of ethnic minorities living in various countries to the economic prosperity and cultural diversity of those countries and (2) the integration of ethnic minority communities in the host country's civil society. These issues generate opportunities, as well as tensions and risks for the host country.

In the last decades, a specific response to these issues has been ethnic entrepreneurship. This is particularly relevant in relation to the ethnic entrepreneurs' contribution to reducing social exclusion and raising the living standards of groups that can often be among the disadvantaged in the wider society. Ethnic entrepreneurs, with their job creation potential, bring about management styles which reflect their cultural background as well as opportunities for the development of local economies, thus increasing economic and cultural diversity and reducing, inter alia, the structural unemployment problems of some ethnic groups1. However, research studies on motivation and critical success conditions for ethnic entrepreneurs demonstrate that performance conditions vary across ethnic groups. These studies also emphasize the role of education, informal social networks and traditional cultural attitudes in shaping entrepreneurial spirit and practice2. Moreover, they highlight the impact of the quality of action by civil society on the entrepreneurs' results and, more specifically, on ethnic entrepreneurs' integration in the host economy and society. …

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