Date: September 15, 2009, 7:30 pm
Location: IMU Main Lounge

  • Author, Gang Leader for a Day (2008) and Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor
  • Professor of Sociology and African-American studies at Columbia University
  • Director of the Center for Urban Research and Policy
  • Expert on American Cities
  • Documentary Filmmaker
  • Contributor, Freakonomics

Sudhir Venkatesh is an award-winning author, and a noted expert on American cities, whose contribution to the internationally bestselling book Freakonomics is well known. Of all the stories told in Freakonomics, the most popular was the section on the economics of crack cocaine and how street gangs ran their drug trade like a corporation. That story was born from Venkatesh's daring life researching a crack gang in Chicago over several years.

Venkatesh's research focuses on cities in the United States (New York, Chicago) and Paris, France. He has published his writings and stories in The American Prospect, Chicago Tribune, This American Life, The Source, and many academic journals.

Venkatesh has made several documentaries, including Dislocation, which gave an insider's look at the social conditions in a Chicago public housing project. The film aired on PBS in 2005 and gave an un-flinching portrait on the ways in which families coped with the demolition of their community and the relocation to new neighborhoods in the city.

Venkatesh's fascinating life and daring exploits are now the subject of his new memoir, Gang Leader for a Day (Penguin Press, 2008), which is based on his life studying gangs and poor communities in Chicago. A movie based on his life story is also in production at Paramount-- to be directed by, Craig Brewer, the acclaimed director of Hustle & Flow.

Sudhir Venkatesh is Professor of Sociology and African-American Studies at Columbia University in New York. He has written extensively about gangs and crime, housing, underground economies, philanthropy and government policy. He established his public presence with "Off the Books", a bestselling study of illegal economies, that was awarded a Best Book prize (2007) by, and he is currently working on a study of illegal economies with Freakonomics author, Steven Levitt.

Selected Works

Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, Harvard University Press, 2006

"Vice Careers: The changing contours of sex work in New York City", Alexandra K. Murphy, Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, Qualitative Sociology, June 2006

"The Gang: History and the Corporate Turn" Commissioned paper by Annual Review of Sociology, 2002

"Theory in Contemporary Street Gang Research" In Alternate Perspectives on Gangs and Communities, Ed(s). L. Kontos, D. Brotherton, and L. Barrios. Columbia University, forthcoming

"The Social Organization of Public Policy in Contexts of Urban Poverty" In Sociological Studies of Children, Volume 8. Edited by David Kinney. Stanford, CT: JAI Press, Autumn, 2001

"Chicago's Pragmatic Planners: American Sociology and the Myth of Community" Social Science History, Summer 2001

"Growing Up in the Projects: The Economic Lives of a Cohort of Men who Came of Age in Chicago Public Housing" With Steven D. Levitt. American Economic Review, May 2001

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