Empowerment through "diaspora entrepreneurship" – The integrative, economic, and social potential of business persons in the Kurdish community in Vienna

Aim and Research Questions

Whereas Turkish, Arabic, or Chinese enterprises are often visually present in the urban environment, the Kurdish ethnic economy mostly has a rather hidden existence in Vienna. The Kurdish diaspora in Vienna moreover displays a highly heterogeneous structure. The project focuses on an aspect that has barely been examined in Austria until now, namely the role of diaspora entrepreneurship of Kurds for the empowerment of the Kurdish community in Vienna, and especially of women within this community. The manifold roles fulfilled by these businesspeople within their communities are to be presented in detail, since migrant entrepreneurship makes an important contribution to development within numerous economic sectors.

Through their activities, diaspora entrepreneurs guarantee their own upward social mobility and contribute miscellaneous forms of social capital to their communities. Enterprisers thus signal social advancement and economic success, and they take up a pivotal position between the diaspora they belong to and the mainstream society. The involvement of women in self-employment is important for female empowerment within traditional communities. The traditional role of Kurdish women is not fundamentally different from that of other women in the Middle East. The activities of female political activists and women within organised resistance as well as numerous interactions between migration and political mobilisation have however led to the formation of a highly active Kurdish women’s movement. In the diaspora, this is reflected in the fact that women also act as independent entrepreneurs and that they do not merely engage within family enterprises. For Vienna, the “hard facts” have not yet been obtained in this regard.

The project is based on 20 partly standardised interviews with Kurdish entrepreneurs from Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. These are structured according to age, length of stay, first- or second-generation migrant status, and branches of economic activity, aiming at the largest possible female component among respondents. A set of expert interviews with representatives of the Vienna Business Agency, the Viennese branch of the Austrian Economic Chamber (WKO), Kurdish organisations, etc., completes our empirical data foundation.

ISR project team

MMag. DDr. Josef Kohlbacher

Sandra Punz, MA


19/10/2020 – 18/10/2021


This project is funded by the City of Vienna, Municipal Section 7 (MA 7).