Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

Sociology student Sudhir Venkatesh sets out on a journey within the Chicago housing projects with a quest of finding out how it feels to be black and poor. Sudhir was an Indian native from a middle class Californian family and he was unfamiliar with the black culture within Chicago. In his book Gang Leader for a Day, he tells of his sociology research within one of the roughest housing projects in Chicago. Sudhir starts his research by talking to a few elderly gentlemen he played chess with at the park. His conversation with them led him to the Robert Taylor Housing Projects which was described as one of the worst Ghettos in America. His research began the first day he arrived with his clipboard of questionnaires ready to ask the question, “How does it feel to be black and poor?” His intent was to interview a few families within the projects and then go home but something unexpected happened. He ended up spending much longer gaining an insight of the lives of poor blacks, gangs, and drug dealers.
Sudhir sets out to conduct a descriptive qualitative research on young and poor black men. His research involves interviews, questionnaires, and observation of participants. His main question was, “How does it feel to be poor and black?” Conducting a descriptive qualitative research works best for Sudhir because of the type of question he wants to investigate. Being among the participants and speaking with them is the best way to collect this type of information. This method proves to be most appropriate for his research. He is interested in the lives of the men and how being poor affected them. This method gives him a better understanding when relating to his participants. He starts out his research initially wanting to focus on yo...

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...hir collected were from people who were working in secret so that they would not have to pay any tax to J.T. However Sudhir innocently shared this information with J.T which caused many of the people to be beaten up for trying to evade taxes.
I believe that his research posed some ethical issues but because he wanted to get as much information as possible he withheld most of the information about his research. Sudhir’s research and sampling method worked for him. He was able to get more information than he anticipated at the beginning of the research. He was able to get a very personal view of life among people that live in the projects. He became so involve that I believe at some points he began to feel like a member of the community.

Venkatesh, S. A. (2008). Gang leader for a day: a rogue sociologist takes to the streets. New York: Penguin Press.

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