Table of Contents
Sudhir who is the author of the book describes the entire Gang Leader for a Day as the day to day observations he made while carrying out his studies on the poor people of Chicago neighborhoods. Venkatesh established a close friendship with the gang leader J.T. The tense friendship enabled Sudhir to access inner operations and the role of the gang in the neighborhood. Venkatesh intention to carry out a research study exposes him to gang violence and drug trade, acts which offer experiences that form the basis of themes that run across the Gang Leader for a Day. Drawing reference from Gang Leader for a Day, this essay is an analysis of themes that run across. Additionally, it explores how experiences of people in the text provide insight on issues and conflicts facing the local and global people at large.
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Racism is one of the issues facing not only Chicago but the world at large. Since he set foot in Chicago, Sudhir Venkatesh had shown interest in studying African- Americans’ living experiences. Sudhir’s very first discussions held with Charlie and Old-Time in Washington DC reveal that Chicago has lots of segregation. These were the very first conversations that exposed Venkatesh to the African-American culture. As a black man, he is frustrated due to the few opportunities available for him in Chicago. He, therefore, ends up joining a gang in order to make more money. In the gangster world, an African-American can make more money and earn a lot of respect unlike being involved in legitimate businesses whose opportunities are very few. Throughout Gang Leader for a Day, Venkatesh has widely used the term “nigger”. It refers to the tenants of Robert Taylor Homes. In another instance, the issue of racism is raised when Venkatesh tells Mrs. Bailey of the intended research. Mrs. Bailey asks Venkatesh if he was going to base his study on the white people (Venkatesh, 17). Mrs. Bailey was only referring to the way in which racism had contributed to the visible segregation at Robert Taylor.
Corruption among the local authorities is yet another issue affecting people across the world. But then is it corruption if it aids the local residents? In the Gang Leader for a Day, people who live on projects are usually represented by an elected person who gets their basic necessities on their behalf; accommodation, food and improved living conditions (Venkatesh, 5). Mrs. Bailey does this on behalf of Venkatesh. Though in return she gets bribes from various organizations implying that she is corrupt, the whole process ends up being beneficial to the others.
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As a sociologist, Sudhir Venkatesh gets exposed to an inner understanding of the ghetto operations as he is involved in some of the worst housing projects in Chicago. With the aim of researching he meets and interacts with gangs and experiences shocking activities of the ghetto people. Though him we learn that gang violence and drug trade are among the issues affecting people, especially in urban settings. Both go hand in hand, in the first place, Sudhir’s intention is not to act violently but when he becomes the head of the gang he is forced to do things he had no intention of doing. Characters as J.T are members of the gang commonly referred to as Black Kings who are known widely in Chicago for their dealings in drug trade and violence (Venkatesh, 12). The money being made from drug trade made J. T. give up a well-paying job in the corporate world in Chicago to become the leader of Black Kings. In the drug trade, however, most of the money goes to the top leaders.
- Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi. Gang leader for a day: A rogue sociologist takes to the streets. Penguin, 2008.