While studying at the University of Chicago, Sudhir Venkatesh, befriended one of the local gangs in an attempt to study the impact they have on the society around them. While earning their trust he was able to better understand why people join gangs, and what it is like to be in them.
Learning how gangs work from the inside gave a unique perspective versus the typical outsider view that was based on supposition and stats of nothing more than economic development. Sudhir was able to become friends with many of the people within the gang including one of the leaders. As he grew and accepted the young men as friends they opened up to him more and explained how they got to where there were in both life and within the organization.
During the course of his friendship he was afforded the opportunity to "run the gang" for a day. While he had some stipulations about running the gang, in that he wouldn't "put out a hit" on a person. His life was in danger, yet he was protected the entire time. His biggest revelation was that questions don't get you answers...experience does.
Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology grad student who infiltrated one of Chicago's most notorious gangs, studying a crack-dealing gang from the insider. Subtitled A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, Venkatesh's book describes how he managed to gain entree into the gang, what he learned, and how his method revolutionized the academic establishment.
Initially looking for people within a notorious housing project to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty, Venkatesh never imagined that as a result of that graduate assignment he would befriend a gang leader and spend the better part of a decade inside the projects under JT's protection, documenting what he saw there. His report is a brazen, page-turning, and fundamentally honest view into the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, often corrupt struggle to survive in what is tantamount to an urban war zone. And it's also the story of a complicated friendship between Sudhir and JT - two young and ambitious men a universe apart.