Sunday, April 3, 2016

Venkatesh, Sudhir (2008): Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

What is it about?

The book reports the experiences of a sociology student, the author, who forms a friendship of sorts with a low-level leader of a drug-dealing gang and thereby is able to engage in a multi-year anthropological study of how the gang and the surrounding community work in and around Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago.

Was it good?

The book is excellent, nearly beyond description.

The contents of the book are exceptionally interesting because of the long-term intimate access the author succeeded in gaining to the people in the gang and the greater community as well as the way the book is written - written in the first person and largely built around real-life events as experienced by the author.

The main take-away for me?

Perhaps the foremost take-away for me was the realization and appreciation of human resilience: even in objectively very harsh conditions people are able to find livelihood (not only drug trading by any means, but all kind of economic activity) and even be relatively happy about their lives. And secondly, I also appreciated the apparent universality of human kindness: even people carrying guns and trading illegal substances do have moral standards (though not precisely the same than upper middle class people) and commitments to friends and family and the greater community.

Who should read the book?

I can sincerely recommend the book for everyone; I think that it can be enjoyed and appreciated at multiple levels. Moreover, the book is written in such a manner that it is basically universally readable. Excellent reading for anyone.

The book on Gang leader for a day

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