Gang Leader For A Day Sociologist Sudhir Venjatesh

Sociologists study how human societies operate from both the inside and out. Normally you may also expect them to be behind desks collecting data through volunteers and performing generally professional sounding jobs; however, this is certainly not the case. Many study the more dangerous & disturbing sectors of society through a heavily hands-on routine. This sociologist found himself inside the heart of gang while doing some surveys during his graduate study and found a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Sudhir Venjatesh a graduate student at the University of Chicago who was working with William Julius Wilson dove

into the areas of poverty despite warnings from professors to stay away. So as the he walked past the sketchy residents of the area, he went into one of the most notorious drug dealing building and climbed up a few flights of stairs. Soon he is apprehended by a few gang members who do not hesitate they threaten and point guns at the 1st year grad student. Assuming the worst they treat him as a rival gang member, and proceed to interrogate him as they search his bag, only to find pens, papers and books. Perhaps not what he expected during a social study, but I suppose it would make sense traversing into drug territory.

Here he also befriended a man known as J.T. who was the leader of the men threatening him. From this moment on began Sudhir’s decade long journey into the depths of the gang’s activities and life. During this time he participated in various activities that are both questionable and could possibly be considered felonies. Crimes that could send him to years in prison, with his relationship with J.T. he was even put in charge of the J.T.’s empire for a day and held its assignments and responsibilities. During his day of power he controlled squadrons of gang soldiers as he dealt crack cocaine; all while

collecting information for his studies. It is often hard to imagine how he kept his distance while also often crossing the lines during his graduate study; perhaps why he has been given the notorious name of the “rouge sociologist”. He also discovered invaluable insights in the inner gears and cogs of gangs, or as many of the higher ranking people claim it as a community rather than a gang. He also learns that many of the gang/community members are not swimming in loot as many of them barely make minimal wage, even J.T. the leader, only made $30,000 when they first met. Soon he had to stop his research as he was nearing completion of his research; JT’s business was also shrinking and Chicago began tearing down the homes and dispersing the gang ring as Sudhir beard his good byes. Yet all is well, Sudhir eventually graduated and completed his Ph.D and now teaches at Columbia University.

If you’d like to reach more he has a book explaining his gang adventure called “Gang leader for a day: Rouge sociologist takes to the streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh”


Sources Cited

1. Grimes, William. "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; If You Want to Observe 'Em, Join 'Em." The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 Jan. 2008. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <>.
2. "Sudhir Venkatesh: Gang Leader for a Day." Sudhir Venkatesh: Gang Leader for a Day. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012. <>.

3. Henslin, James M. "Gang Leader For a Day: Adventures of a Rouge Sociologist." Essentials of Sociology. 10th ed. N.p.: Pearson, 2013. 31. Print.

Article Written By GDop26

RIT student

Last updated on 28-07-2016 183 0

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