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Posted September 16, 2013
Floating City vaguely begins where Venkatesh's previous autobiog
Floating City vaguely begins where Venkatesh's previous autobiographical account Gang Leader for a Day left off: he leaves Chicago for NYC as a new professor at Columbia University. Though he already has contacts in the City's underground economy from some of his informants from his dissertation, the premise of Floating City is that he eventually realizes NYC needs a different kind of sociology altogether. While this is in-and-of itself problematic because all cities have the kind of underground networks he postulates as ‘unique’ to NYC, albeit through very different geographies, more problematic is his 'me-search' narrative. More specifically, the constant dialogue running through the book about his own type of research versus the sociological 'formalistic' approaches practiced by his colleagues gets old by the second chapter but keeps on going to the bitter end. There were some interesting parts of the book. For example, his connections with the young white elite, a few of whom have gotten themselves involved in the underground economy more out of greed and the thrill of it then about survival, is interesting. But Floating City falls flat because Venkatesh let his ego get in the way of a what could of been a really good book. I rate this book as good because I don't regret reading it, but I probably won't recommend it to others.
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