We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Sudhir Venkatesh went to grad school to study sociology; he spent the next seven years studying how to deal crack. Venkatesh was only a first-year grad student at the University of Chicago when his door-to-door survey unwittingly introduced him to the major players of an inner-city crack gang. When Venkatesh befriended a gang leader named J.T., the scholar secured an unprecedented peephole into the urban crime world. For nearly a decade, J.T. dealt, killed, and micromanaged while Venkatesh observed. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner first explored the economic impact of Venkatesh’s findings in their 2005 pop-econ phenomenon Freakonomics (turns out, crack gangs are run pretty much like corporate America). In Gang Leader for a Day—Venkatesh’s memoir of the experience—he tells the human side of the story, including his own 24-hour trial run at J.T.’s job. Venkatesh discusses and signs copies of his work at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919.