American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto

Front Cover
High-rise public housing developments were signature features of the post–World War II city. A hopeful experiment in providing temporary, inexpensive housing for all Americans, the “projects” soon became synonymous with the black urban poor, with isolation and overcrowding, with drugs, gang violence, and neglect. As the wrecking ball brings down some of these concrete monoliths, Sudhir Venkatesh seeks to reexamine public housing from the inside out, and to salvage its troubled legacy. Based on nearly a decade of fieldwork in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, American Project is the first comprehensive story of daily life in an American public housing complex. Venkatesh draws on his relationships with tenants, gang members, police officers, and local organizations to offer an intimate portrait of an inner-city community that journalists and the public have only viewed from a distance. Challenging the conventional notion of public housing as a failure, this startling book re-creates tenants’ thirty-year effort to build a safe and secure neighborhood: their political battles for services from an indifferent city bureaucracy, their daily confrontation with entrenched poverty, their painful decisions about whether to work with or against the street gangs whose drug dealing both sustained and imperiled their lives. American Project explores the fundamental question of what makes a community viable. In his chronicle of tenants’ political and personal struggles to create a decent place to live, Venkatesh brings us to the heart of the matter.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

AMERICAN PROJECT: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto

User Review  - Kirkus

Sociological analysis condemning our public housing policies that focuses on a Chicago projectVenkatesh (Sociology/Columbia Univ.) spent hundreds of hours interviewing residents of Chicago's Robert ... Read full review

American project: the rise and fall of a modern ghetto

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Venkatesh (sociology, Inst. for Research in African-American Studies, Columbia Univ.) began his extensive exploration of the history of the notorious Robert Taylor Homes public housing project as a ... Read full review

Contents

A Place to Call Home
13
Doing the Hustle
65
Whats It Like to Be in Hell?
110
Copyright

3 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2000)

Sudhir Venkatesh is William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology at Columbia University in the City of New York. He is a researcher and writer on urban neighborhoods in the United States (New York, Chicago) and Paris, France. He is also a documentary film-maker. His most recent book is Gang Leader for a Day. In 2006 he also published Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor about illegal economies in Chicago. Off the Books received a Best Book Award from Slate.Com (2006) as well as the C. Wright Mills Award (2007). His first book, American Project: The Rise and Fall of a Modern Ghetto (2000) explored life in Chicago public housing. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. He was a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University from 1996-1999. He is currently Director of the Center for Urban Research and Policy, and Director of the Charles H. Revson Fellowship Program, both at Columbia University.

William Julius Wilson, an American sociologist, received his Ph.D. from Washington State University in 1966 and teaches at the University of Chicago. His scholarly work, written from both historical and sociological perspectives, has concentrated on the condition of African Americans living in inner cities, especially the underclass. He stresses urban divisions separating the middle class from the poor.

Bibliographic information