Sub-theme 09: SMEs and Negotiating Creative Space in Asia and Asia-Pacific


Can-Seng Ooi, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Juliette Koning, Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
Heidi Dahles, Griffith University, Australia

Call for Papers

This panel examines the making of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the creative industries. Because organizational practices and firm strategies are situated in space and time, the aim of this panel is to explore the conversion of space to place within the frames of “society”, “industry” and “firms”, or more specifically “Asian societies”, “creative industries” and “SMEs”. As such, this panel stems from a contextualized understanding of SME development (Van Gelderen and Masurel, 2012).

The creative industries are widely promoted around the world. The creative industries are not homogeneous nor do they manifest identically in different parts of the globe. Politicians and policy-makers nonetheless cherish the creative industries project because creative business activities – ranging from advertising to making art, selling pop music to constructing funky buildings – are seen as future engines of economic growth. The last decade also saw a proliferation of small firms in the creative economy (Henry and de Bruin, 2011). In going behind the gloss, this proposed panel digs deep into the organizational practices and cultures of SMEs in the creative industries in Asia.

Many Asian cities, from Bandung to Beijing, are, or are aiming to be, part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. These member cities are committed to the development of their creative industries in inclusive and sustainable ways. Many other Asian cities that are not members of this network have similar ambitions. Authorities in Asian countries and cities offer incentives to promote the creative industries (Kong and O’Connor 2009). Big international firms in the creative industries have set up shop in Asia, and some Asian firms in the creative industries have also gone global. Most of these firms however, need support from smaller creative firms and free-lancers; prop makers support big film production companies, and art consultants coordinate with major auction houses like Christie’s and Sotheby’s, for instance. As creativity is being “industrialized”, there is a need to examine the management and practice of SMEs dealing with big international firms, as well as with creative industries policies.

There are also many local firms that celebrate “indigenous creativity”. Local traditional products are re-packaged into designer-angled products, or transformed into classy tourist souvenirs. This panel also welcomes investigations that address SMEs that embrace the global creative economy discourse, and present themselves as creative firms.

We invite empirical, conceptual and reflexive papers that address the ways in which Asian entrepreneurs and firms contribute to the making of local spaces into creative places.

Topics might address (but are not restricted to):

  1. Processes of negotiating (access to/a position in) creative space(s) in Asia
    1. What is the role and meaning of the creative hubs created by UNESCOs Creative Cities Network for SMEs?
    2. The power of space: how are creative spaces negotiated between big and small firms?
  2. Creative designing, re-packaging and innovations by SMEs
    1. What is the meaning of imagining, story-telling, and marketing of ‘indigenous creativity’?
    2. How are traditions re-formulated, heritage developed and lifestyle engineered in new creative products?
  3. Social and organizational dynamics
    1. How does transfer of creative practices and knowledge takes place?
    2. How do start-up processes of SMEs in the creative industries develop?
    3. What can be revealed on cultivating, managing and monetizing creativity?

Panel papers will be given the opportunity to publish in a special themed section of Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory.


Henry, C. and A. de Bruin (eds.) (2011) Entrepreneurship and the Creative Economy: Process, Practice and Policy. Edward Elgar Publishing

Kong, L. and J. O’Connor (eds.) (2009) Creative Economies, Creative Cities: Asian-European Perspectives. London: Springer

Van Gelderen, M. and E. Masurel (eds.) (2012) Entrepreneurship in Context. London: Routledge


Can-Seng Ooi is Professor of International Business and Culture Industries, Copenhagen Business School (CBS), Denmark. His training is in sociology and anthropology. He has been conducting comparative investigations in various creative industry domains, including heritage, art and culture, in Singapore, Denmark and China. He is also the Director of the Centre for Leisure and Culture Services Research at CBS, and co-editor of Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory.

Juliette Koning is Reader in Organization Studies and Asian Business at Oxford Brookes University, UK. She has a PhD in social anthropology and her research interests include questions of religion, identity and ethnicity in entrepreneurship and small business organizations in Southeast Asia. She is co-convenor of an EGOS Standing Working Group on Organizational Ethnography and co-editor of the peer-reviewed Open Access journal Asia Matters: Business, Culture and Theory.

Heidi Dahles (PhD in social sciences in 1990, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands) is full Professor and Head of Department of International Business and Asian Studies at Griffith University, Australia. Her research interest is in Chinese business, small-scale enterprises, and the informal economies of Southeast Asia. Among her recent co-edited volumes are Capital and Knowledge. Changing Power Relations in Asia (2003) and Multicultural Organizations in Asia (2006). Heidi is convenor of the EGOS SWG ‘Organisational Ethnography’.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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