Below are some questions to think about as you read Chapters 3 – 5:
- Representatives of both “the gang” and “the community” at Robert Taylor talk a lot about how “the gang” helps “the community.” What are they talking about? Do you agree?
- How would you conceptualize the relations between/among “the gang,” “the community,” and “family,” “home,” and the “buildings” where people live? In other words, are they the same thing? To what extent do they overlap? To what extent are they different?
- Venkatesh writes: “Strangely, while most people think of a gang as a threat, for me—an uninitiated person in the projects—the gang represented security” (p. 84). What does he mean by this?
- Various characters in the book make claims about the relationships among these categories, of course. Are their claims persuasive?
- Approaching this as a social researcher studying gangs, how would you conceptualize gangs? What would your “conceptual definition” and “empirical definition” be?
- Why and how is the gang involved in politics?
- Who is Autry? What is his relationship to the gang? When Autry says “the club played a broad peacekeeping role in the community” (p. 98), what does he mean?
- What are the (specific) responsibilities of a gang leader? What kind of (general) skills do they require? Compare them to the responsibilities and skills required in a managerial position inside a legitimate business. What would you say constitutes “success” in these leadership positions? What contributes to success or effectiveness?
- Based on Venkatesh’s reporting, how is life in the projects different for women as compared with men? What circumstances pose particular difficulties for women? How have women responded, with what kind of “survival strategies”?
- As Venkatesh asks, “Was it possible…to be in the projects for any length of time and remain neutral, an outsider, an objective observer” (p. 179)? What do you think?
“Scholars return to ‘Culture of Poverty’ Ideas.” That’s according to an article in the New York Times (10/17/10). Such ideas link persistent urban poverty to “culture,” typically understood as sets of values and norm. In Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh explores the subject using ethnographic techniques. Click the link above to read the article, which helpfully maps out the key academic debates on poverty. Useful background for GLFD.
“Violence” is one of the many concepts in social research that has different meanings for different people. It’s also a concept that is sometimes conceptualized as multidimensional. This infographic from the Canada-based Girls Action Foundation breaks violence down into three dimensions: internal, relational, and systemic. The GAF also points out how violence is normalized — how it comes to be accepted as normal or “given” — in girls’ lives so that their parents, teachers, and peers may not even recognize it.
Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased… READ MORE.
Since many in our group have an interest in female body image and eating disorders, I thought you’d find Lady Gaga’s recent look interesting. Here’s a link to the NY Daily News story: