Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Prof, My Gang Leader

I just heard from an old Columbia J School classmate of mine that our guest lecturer, Sudhir Venkatesh got slammed by some guy at Gawker for his participatory gang activity in the 90s. Apparently, he crossed the line on numerous occasions while following crack king J.T. around the Chicago projects, even going so far as to get a "boot in" during a gang beating. I got to know Prof. V fairly well during his stint as our "guest lecturer" in the MA program's Evidence and Inference class. And here's what I think of all this, after the jump.

Sudhir V., who has his very own chapter in Freakonomics, is one of the biggest hotshots in the hotshot field within sociology known as "ethnography," which involves following around the urban poor in an attempt to get rid of liberal guilt ... er, I mean, in order to learn about their needs and challenges.

Here at UC Berkeley, we've got Loic Wacquant, who also went to Chicago's Southside, and tried to turn his skinny, white French self into a boxer. By immersing themselves in the lives of these people, they believe they get a unique view of otherwise hidden worlds. Do they lose "objectivity"? Yep. Good thing no other academics or journalists ever do that.

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