A rogue sociologist | Cover Story | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
  • Still happening
    July 13, 2013
    The govt last year extended the club's lease up to 2050.
  • A rare mix
    July 13, 2013
    Getting membership into this 118-year-old club - once the estate of the deposed Tipu Sultan exiled to Calcutta - is no easy task.
  • Fun and games
    July 13, 2013
    Bombay Gymkhana first opened its doors strictly to moneyed Britishers.
More in this Section
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy
Cover Story

A rogue sociologist

If the opening line of a book read, "I woke up at about 7:30 am in a crack den", and you assumed it was fiction in the mould of Kafka, you could be pardoned. But only this is the path-breaking work of sociologist and urban ethnographer Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, a professor at Colombia University. The book, Gang Leader For A Day, an acclaimed study on illegal economies in Chicago. Crack den, by the way, is a derelict apartment used by street gangs for selling drugs, alcohol, sex and other underground wares.

Sudhir, a 23-year-old grad in 1989, spent seven years living with the dangerous and down-and-out black neighbourhoods for this project. His idea of sociology far extends the realms of data acquired through surveys;it is about feeling and experiencing the anxieties of marginalised communities. He did, though, start his first day in research with a clipboard and a set of questions and truly enough, faced hostility from the gangs. But he went back again with a steely resolve to hang out with them. There isn't much uptalk in the mean streets, he learnt. The dangers lurked too - he was caught in a few gun-battles.

The book's in-your-face narration and unforeseen truths startled the academic world. Freakonomics drew on his findings in "Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live With Their Moms?" Sudhir's other works on the underground economy and the rise and fall of the modern ghetto have also explored lives in his trademark style. Sudhir's daring approach as an ethnographer has had Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner see two abnormalities in him: "an overdeveloped curiousity and an underdeveloped sense of fear".

He was born in India but came to the US when he was five and grew up in a California suburb. Now he likes to think of himself as an American.

Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik | MensXP.com


itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service