I’m skeptical of most academic sociology, so I don’t follow Sudhir Venkatesh too closely. But it seems that some people are peeved, Columbia’s Gang Scholar Lives on the Edge:
Today, he is a celebrity in an otherwise low-key academic field — a star on campus, an influential public intellectual, a sought-after speaker. The hardcover of his best-selling book, “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets,” released in 2008, features a full-length photo of him looking tough in jeans and a leather jacket, its collar turned up.
Through his research on gang life and prostitutes, he has succeeded against long odds in making sociology seem hip. And by writing in magazines, being featured in the book “Freakonomics,” and even appearing on late-night television, he has succeeded in bringing that research out of the academy and into the public realm.
But fame has brought controversy. Some of his peers say that in search of a broader readership he takes liberties not appropriate for a scholar: sensationalizing his experiences, exaggerating the reliability of his memory and, in one case, physically assaulting someone. Others who might not have attracted mainstream attention say he steps too eagerly into the spotlight.