Sudhir Venkatesh

Gang Leader For a Day

  • 44-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 8 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a PhD in English
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Gang Leader For a Day Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature.  This 44-page guide for “Gang Leader For a Day” by Sudhir Venkatesh includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 8 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Race and Space.

Plot Summary

Gang Leader for a Day is Sudhir Venkatesh’s account of the six years he spent doing research in Chicago’s housing projects as a Sociology graduate student. Early in his time at the University of Chicago, Venkatesh stumbles across the Black Kings, a powerful gang heavily involved in Chicago’s crack trade. While he is interested in studying urban poverty, Venkatesh cannot pass up the opportunity to learn more about how gangs operate and what role they play in their community.

Through his friendship with J.T., leader of a Black Kings faction, Venkatesh gains unprecedented access to Robert Taylor Homes, a housing project. The book’s title comes from the fact that, in order to teach Venkatesh what is involved in running a gang, JT appoints him leader for a day. As his research continues, however, his focus widens to consider the role played by people like the building president Ms. Bailey; the place of women in Robert Taylor Homes; the relationship between the tenants and the police and the various ways that the tenants hustle to make money in the projects’ “underground economy”.

During his time at Robert Taylor Homes, Venkatesh sees violence and kindness; his views are challenged and his life is threatened. In the book, he paints a series of portraits of the people he encounters on the way. Even as he witnesses the changes wrought in Robert Taylor Homes, Venkatesh himself is transformed from a naïve graduate student to a young academic. In this book, he pays tribute to the people who made his academic success possible.

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