Cover image for American project : the rise and fall of a modern ghetto
American project : the rise and fall of a modern ghetto
Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
xvi, 332 pages ; 24 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HD7288.78.U52 C476 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



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.

Author Notes

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. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

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 graduate student at the University of Chicago. His methodology is to build a "collective history" by combining surveys, documentary research, and participant observation. This approach provides a fascinating and rigorous explanation of how a model of urban subsidized housing, which succeeded for 20 years, declined into disastrous conditions for its inhabitants. He looks, for example, at criminal activity in the project with an unflinching view of the contributions of such social structural changes as the economy and labor market, social services providers, city and state politicians, police practices, and residents. This is an important contribution to understanding urban poverty and will stand with classic work by Carol Stack and William Julius Wilson (who wrote the foreword). Highly recommended for public or academic collections in sociology, urban studies, and public policy.DPaula R. Dempsey, DePaul Univ. Lib., Chicago (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This book provides a comprehensive analysis of the life of a famous Chicago housing project: Robert Taylor Homes. The author traces the history of the project from its construction in the early sixties to its demise in the late 1990s. In large part a product of its time, city officials intended to provide decent and affordable housing to a large population of poor black residents, and to maintain residential segregation by placing the project in the middle of a deteriorated slum. The major contribution of this book is in its focus. Most of the recent books on the life of the inner city ghetto focus exclusively on the individual behavior of poor urban residents, and stress the pathology of the inner city. American Project, however, documents continuous efforts of the project residents to create community, to pool resources and political muscle to insure the continuation of basic services, and to secure democratic representation. The ultimate failure of Robert Taylor Homes was not a lack of trying, but rather that the problems faced by the residents went beyond what they could address with limited resources. General and academic collections. G. Rabrenovic; Northeastern University

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ixi
Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1 A Place to Call Homep. 13
2 Doing the Hustlep. 65
3 "What's It Like to Be in Hell?"p. 110
4 Tenants Face Off with the Gangp. 153
5 Street-Gang Diplomacyp. 191
6 The Beginning of the End of a Modern Ghettop. 238
Author's Notep. 281
Notesp. 289
Acknowledgmentsp. 319
Indexp. 321