In so doing, Venkatesh revealed a complex mix of subculture (the Black Kings were a highly organised gang with a clear hierarchy, recruitment rituals, and socialisation processes) and culture – the gang were embedded in the day-to-day life of the Projects. Although their primary purpose was to make money through selling drugs (mainly crack cocaine), they also performed a range of secondary functions within their territory – from the provision of protection for Project residents from other gangs, through the organisation of social activities (such as Basketball games), to policing the Projects (involving things like the provision of shelter for “the homeless”.). a. Ethnicity: His South Asian ethnic background allowed him to pass among the overwhelmingly African-American subjects of his study in a way that would have probably been denied to him if he had been white (since the only “white faces” in the Projects were those of the police – and, with one or two notable exceptions, they rarely ventured into the place except to make arrests and, it is implicitly suggested, extort protection money). Venkatesh’s initial encounter with the Black Kings was one where he was mistaken for a member of a rival (Mexican) gang – his ethnicity was variously considered by the people in the Projects to be “Mexican, “Spanish” or the largely-ubiquitous label
“Ay-rab”. The fact he was relatively young, casually dressed and a student at the University also gave him credentials accepted by both those in the gang and the Projects generally – something that leads into a second consideration:
His ethics, however, are questionable. He started doing research and had not gotten human subjects approval. He deceived his advisor and dissertation committee about the extent that he was embedded into the gang. He saw clearly illegal activities take place and never told anyone, and once or twice did something illegal. Their claims are not only that he was unethical, but that he put people’s...
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