The piece of writing is an abstract of ‘Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to The Streets’ written by Sudhir Venkatesh, published by Penguin Books in December 2008. The book is a direct experience of the author about the Chicago gangs. In the book, he talked about his experience with the gang and how he cracked it to be part of one for his case study. The way he entered the gang, his learnings and the methods used by him established a revolution in the academic field of the primary survey. His encounter with the local gang began with his survey on urban poverty as a graduate student who was eager to impress his professors. To be part of the research as the university, he took out a multi-choice question to be filled by local poor residents residing at a nearby dilapidated building in Chicago.

His experience is something that every sociologist faces while on fieldwork, that is, to be part of the situation without actually being part of it. Collecting information based on observation without mixing his/her thoughts or judgment and producing biased free work is a struggle for every field worker, irrespective of his discipline. This book is a classic example of it. He carried out his research under a Gang leader called J.T. Under J.T., he met different groups and gangs and documented all their functioning in a set of journals. Prostitutes, pimps, juvenile gangs, drug peddlers, police, store workers and people who were in the structure of building a gang; he met them all. His close proximity with J.T. gave him unlimited access to all areas of their world, which he closely studied and witnessed. Venkatesh not only talked about his experiences but also the working of the gangs, their funding, management of families, police surveillance in the area and support and education for young people belonging to that area.

The book bluntly pointed out how their world and the world of law are closely intertwined and their difficulty if someone does not want to be part of the gang culture. The duality of people in both the world is demarcated by Venkatesh. The author shows this by his friendship with J.T., a gang leader in Chicago. Both of them were ambitious and wants to excel in their own field of interest, coming from different worlds.

This book is a page-turner for the people working on the development of the country. This book gives an insight of understanding from the authors’ point of view of what it feels like to be part of urban slums. It is more than just poverty. It is a world for the core functioning of all bad things and their existence. The book is marvellous and breath taking on various pages.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to The Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
By Roshani Goel, Senior Qualitative Researcher, Sanrachana
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