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Gang Leader for a Day
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Gang Leader for a Day [Format Kindle]

Sudhir Venkatesh
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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From Publishers Weekly

Honest and entertaining, Columbia University professor Venkatesh vividly recounts his seven years following and befriending a Chicago crack-dealing gang in a fascinating look into the complex world of the Windy City's urban poor. As introduced in Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's bestseller, Freakonomics, Venkatesh became involved with the Black Kings—and their charismatic leader J.T.—as a first-year doctoral student at the University of Chicago. Sent to the projects with a multiple-choice test on poverty as his calling card, Venkatesh was, to his surprise, invited in to see how the drug dealers functioned in real life, from their corporate structure to the corporal punishment meted out to traitors and snitches. Venkatesh's narrative breaks down common misperceptions (such as all gang members are uneducated and cash rich, when the opposite is often true), the native of India also addresses his shame and subsequent emotional conflicts over collecting research on illegal activities and serving as the Black Kings' primary decision-maker for a day—hardly the actions of a detached sociological observer. But overinvolved or not, this graduate student turned gang-running rogue sociologist has an intimate and compelling tale to tell. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Revue de presse

"Gang Leader for a Day is not another voyeuristic look into the supposedly tawdry, disorganized life of the black poor. Venkatesh entered the Chicago gang world at the height of the crack epidemic and what he found was a tightly organized community, held together by friendship and compassion as well as force. I couldn't stop reading, and ended up loving this brave, reckless young scholar, as well as the gang leader J.T., who has to be one of the greatest characters ever to emerge from something that could be called sociological research." -- Barbara Ehrenreich "Gang Leader for a Day is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh's memoir of his years observing life in Chicago's inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy. How is it that a naòve suburban kid ends up running a crack gang (if only for a day) on his way to becoming one of the world's leading scholars? You have to read it to find out, but heed this warning: don't pick up the book unless you have a few hours to spare because I promise you will not be able to put it down once you start." --Steven D. Levitt, co-author, Freakonomics "This extraordinary book features the fascinating research of a brilliant young sociologist. Sudhir Venkatesh spent several years closely interacting with crack-selling gang members and struggling poor residents in a large and very dangerous public housing project in Chicago. His riveting portrait of day-to-day life in this poor community, including the challenges confronting parents in a drug-infested and violent social environment, is disturbing. But, Gang Leader for a Day is rich with original information and insights on poor families, drug dealers and even the police. It will leave an indelible impression on readers." ---William Julius Wilson, Harvard University Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser Professor "Whether you enjoy fiction, history, or biography you'll be drawn to Venkatesh's gripping retelling of his experiences in the Robert Taylor Homes. Gang Leader for a Day poignantly reminds us that there continue to be separate and unequal Americas that ultimately impact us all." --Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Un témoignage passionnant et éclairant 13 mars 2014
Par Philippe Korda TOP 1000 COMMENTATEURS
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
L'auteur décrit et décortique le fonctionnement d'un gang mais surtout, plus largement, de tout un quartier déshérité de Chicago dans les années 90 avec ses trafiquants, ses chômeurs, ses squatters, ses toxicos, ses prostituées - ces catégories étant loin d'être exclusives l'une de l'autre -, mais aussi retraités, petits commerçants, "notables", services sociaux, police... La tableau est parfois un peu désespérant quand on comprend à quel point tout le monde en vient à tenter de profiter de tout le monde pour survivre.

La grande force du livre vient de l'histoire incroyable mais vraie de l'auteur, jeune étudiant en sociologie plongé - presque par hasard - au coeur de la vie d'un gang et qui, sur plusieurs années, va nouer des relations de grande proximité avec les individus qu'il est venu observer.

Il s'agit d'un récit haletant, captivant, avec de l'intelligence mais aussi du suspense, de l'humour, de l'horreur parfois, raconté avec intelligence et honnêteté par un auteur qui ne se donne pas toujours le beau rôle.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.3 étoiles sur 5  230 commentaires
195 internautes sur 212 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting read that left me conflicted 16 mars 2008
Par Tethys - Publié sur
This book is definitely an interesting read, particularly if you are not from the wrong side of the tracks. For most middle and upper class readers, I believe this is an insightful and voyueristic view of the lives that are so often forgotten about in this country.
Having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks and having lived in the projects for a time, I found myself deeply conflicted by the author's portrayal of others and himself. In the end he is only somewhat honest with himself about being the biggest hustler of all in the book. How exactly do you eat people's food and sit on their couches and follow them around for six years and in the end say you weren't even friends? Is this simply artificial distance inserted to make himself seem more scholarly, or does he really feel this way about the people who greatly contributed to his career? He tries to distinguish himself from the very people he interacted with and at times participated in morally questionable behavior with by describing himself as dressing appropriately for an Ivy League professor while returning to visit the ghetto. This description of himself at the end of the book brought home sharply to me the reality that most people will take a look at this world, like the author, and then put it down and walk away from the very real needs that real Americans have and it left me frustrated and angry. For every person who makes it out, there are hundreds left behind and most people are unwilling or unable to do anything except close a book and forget. I highly question that anything will be done as a result of this work to significantly improve impoverished Americans' situations, a view that the author confirms.
For all of the conflicting statements about various individuals moral choices in the book, the real heroes are the people who are trying to make the best of a bad situation. J.T., the drug dealer who gave the author the unprecendented access, reflects the true complexity of his environment and the ways in which people rationalize what they have to do in order to make a life for their families. And in many ways all of the people who spoke with and participated in the author's journey through American poverty reflect the same principles and values that the rest of America have. We all make choices and do what we have to do to get by, no matter how cultured we pretend to be.
So while I am frustrated by the author's need to distinguish himself from the people who shared so much with him, I hope that this book makes people think about the people around them and the very real suffering that occurs in our own country. I know from having lived in a place not to far removed from what the author describes, I cannot turn away and forget. While other people see a middle class girl now, in many ways I will never be separated from that life and I know that even this book does not begin to address the long-term difficulties involved in irradicating poverty in this country. And the main reason for this is in this book: you can leave the projects, but it never really leaves you and thus many people end up back there no matter how hard they work to get out.
Gangleader for a day, therefore, should represent a reality check for America, especially as our economy slows.
123 internautes sur 133 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Sudhir, you're getting into something you shouldn't be messing with..." 11 janvier 2008
Par Kerry Walters - Publié sur
Thus Reggie, a Chicago gang member, warned the author of this book. Thank goodness, Venkatesh wasn't frightened away, and the consequence is this narrative about a Chicago crack-dealing gang.

I first learned something about life in a Chicago housing project when I read David Isay's heartbreaking Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago (1999), and something about the street drug trade in David Simons and Edward Burns' grueling The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood (1998). Both have become classics. Sudhir Venkatesh's Gang Leader for a Day is, I believe, destined to join them as an on-the-spot narrative of gang culture of Chicago. Some of the people whose lives he tracks--J.T., Clarisse, Mama and Pops Patton, Reggie, Millie, T-Bone--grow on you until you feel as if you actually know them.

While a graduate student at the University of Chicago, weary of cold statistical analysis, Venkatesh began hanging out with the Black Kings, a crack-selling gang who headquartered in the Robert Taylor Homes projects. He wanted to get in touch with the gang subculture through direct observation. He entered into the project pretty naive and just a bit too full of himself. Seven years later, after following the Black Kings and establishing a relationship with their leader, one J.T., the things he'd seen and heard made him a lot more streetwise and a little less cocky.

During his seven-year study, "Mr. Professor," as J.T.'s mother initially called Venkatesh, learned that Chicago gangs, or at least J.T.'s outfit, lived in a culture of violence and machismo, but also functioned in an unexpected way as police in their own territory. From the perspective of society, they were lawbreakers. But at Robert Taylor Homes, they were also lawmakers, keeping a tight rein on adventitious violence and, through acts of "philanthropy," keeping the local economy fueled with drug money.

He discovered about halfway through his research with the Black Kings that he'd witnessed or heard about so many gang and drug deal activities that he'd do well to seek legal advice. When he did, he discovered (to his discomfort) that there was no such thing under the law as "researcher-client confidentiality," and that he was in a vulnerable legal position. At one point during his project, he actually worried that "he was falling into a hole [of criminality] I could never dig myself out of" (p. 250)

He realized that getting wounded in gang violence nine times out of ten meant either that nobody would call an ambulance for you, or if they did, that no ambulance would make a run into the inner city war zone to pick you up.

He learned that there's a city-wide organization and hierarchy when it comes to many Chicago gangs, including the Black Kings.

And from spending all this time with pushers, junkies, gangsters, civilians, hookers, and cops, and learning firsthand about their lives, he learned that it's risky to make holier-than-thou comparisons. When he bade J.T. farewell, for example, Venkatesh mentioned to the gangleader that he wasn't sure he was ready to jump into another longterm research project. J.T. cannily observed that there was little else Venkatesh was qualified to do. "You can't fix nothing, you never worked a day in your life. The only think you know how to do is hang out with n-----s like us" (p. 281).

An excellent, fascinating book, sometimes frightening, at other times unspeakably sad, and at still others funny: but always with the feel of authenticity and never sentimental. Highly recommended, as is his American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto (2002) and especially his recent (2006) Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. In fact, the latter book could easily be read as a companion volume to Gang Leader for a Day.
68 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Fascinating But Flawed... 21 juillet 2009
Par Snugs McKay - Publié sur
Ever loved a song so much, you wish it had been written by a better band? That's what reading this book is like: Venkatesh gets three stars on the strength of his premise alone, but it only takes him about 4 chapters to spoil what he began. Here's what you can expect, once that 100 page honeymoon is over...

1.) Dialogue so false it makes George Lucas sound like a naturalistic writer. No disclaimer can excuse the dead ear Venkatech reveals whenever called upon to recount spoken words. The people with whom he interacts are voiced as sitcom-level caricatures; we meet the wise old woman who takes no guff, the insecure young tough, the smooth elder thug who maintains his rep with almost professional detachment, etc.

2.) A total lack of Academic responsibility. I'm not talking, as others have, about the moral questions raised by the author's witness of so many crimes - that's something you either forgive or not, before picking up the book. I'm talking about the fact that, for any given phenomenon, he only really entertains one theory, or one frame of explanation. The view of ghetto life he formed in the classroom is not one he's prepared to change, and he's really only interested in gathering details to fill out that view. But such is the problem - if you're not ready to change your mind on fundamental questions, then don't call it "research".

3.) An often shocking whiff of upper-middle class condescension. There is no easy way to this, so I'll just say it: the author treats his mostly black subjects with a smugness that is sometimes quite disgusting. It's a disguised, liberal kind of smugness, but it reveals what kind of expectations Venkatesh brought with him to the experience. He fawns over his subjects (never worse than with Ms. Bailey) so excessively, that it can only be the product of genuine surprise. Time and again, he seems to say: "Look at these wretches, how startling and cute it is when they say something clever!"

Now, in writing this I probably picked up a bit of steam, and overstated my case. No doubt about that, but in the interest of balancing so much uncritical praise, I'll let this stand...
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 An awful lot like The Wire... 3 mars 2009
Par Craig T - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
....but not as good. Something does not ring true about this book. The dialogue, especially, seems very contrived.
42 internautes sur 57 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Disappointed 6 avril 2008
Par Jodie Atkinson - Publié sur
I am a graduate student in Sociology and received my BA in the same from Berkeley. I bought this book because I was trained by another sociologist who did extensive work on gangs and I was interested in comparing the two. As this is a sociological book, I expected the introduction to layout methodology and detail how the author dealt with this kind of fieldwork. I also expected to find some connection to sociology. This book is more like a novel than an academic work and I am quite disconcerted that it has gotten such positive attention.

For a graduate student, which Venkatesh was at the start of his project, to not understand that a sociological researcher is not covered by the First Amendment is startling. I learned this in my sociological methods classes as an undergraduate, how could he make it four years into his research before W.J. Wilson informs him he could be legally liable for watching illegal activities? Further, the continued use of deception in this research is ethically problematic as well. To allow J.T. to even partially believe that Venkatesh was writing a biography places the researcher in an ethical dilemma - one that Venkatesh minimally addresses. Venkatesh would have done well to address this issue, as well as issues of his personal biases (he comes from a privileged background), reliability and validity - all of which are important to a sociological book.

Finally, Venkatesh makes a patently false claim. At the end of the book when talking to J.T., Venkatesh states that there has never been an inter-city study of gangs that would allow for comparison across region. THIS IS FALSE. Martin Sanchez-Jankowski of U.C. Berkeley wrote "Islands in the Street" after spending ten years conducting participant observation research on gangs ALL ACROSS THE U.S. Sanchez-Jankowski's book is still in print and for Venkatesh to not even know about its existence indicates that he did little other research to go along with his field work. If he had conducted a literature review, this book would have been known to him. I believe that the heading "A Rogue Sociologist Takes to The Streets" is simply a grandiose self-reference designed to sell books. If you are truly interested in learning about gangs, check out "ISLANDS IN THE STREET."
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He made a few references to the gangs hierarchy and his effort to rise within it. There were a few dozen Black Kings officers above him, spread throughout Chicago, who earned their money by managing several gang factions like J.T.s. These men were known as lieutenants and captains. Above them was another level of gangsters who were known as the board of directors. I had had no idea how much a street gangs structure mirrored the structure of just about any other business in America. &quote;
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A drug economy, he told me, was useful for the community, since it redistributed the drug addicts money back into the community via the gangs philanthropy. &quote;
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In the projects its more important that you take care of the problem first. Then you worry about how you took care of the problem. &quote;
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