Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

While at Borders one day, I was looking at books up toward the front of the store, and this caught my eye. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I heard about gang activity frequently on the news, and when I was a student, I had the opportunity to do field work in a hospital in one of the 'burbs of Chicago where I visited several men who had been in gangs.

Venkatesh shares the story of the research he did while he was a grad student at the University of Chicago. He was studying sociology, and was particularly interested in studying poverty and the Chicago housing projects, but felt the normal means of gathering information and doing research were insufficient to really understand the issues and the people. Instead of learning about the issues and people a detached way, Venkatesh went to the Robert Taylor Homes (located in Chicago, it was the largest public housing project in the US), and befriended a gang leader. For years he spent time with people at Robert Taylor, spending a lot of time with gang members, and learned about the community and economy of the projects. It is interesting to read about his adventures and what he learned about people.

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