Renegade Dreams: Living Through Injury In Gangland Chicago

Paperback | September 15, 2014

byLaurence Ralph

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Every morning Chicagoans wake up to the same stark headlines that read like some macabre score: “13 shot, 4 dead overnight across the city,” and nearly every morning the same elision occurs: what of the nine other victims? As with war, much of our focus on inner-city violence is on the death toll, but the reality is that far more victims live to see another day and must cope with their injuries—both physical and psychological—for the rest of their lives. Renegade Dreams is their story. Walking the streets of one of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods—where the local gang has been active for more than fifty years—Laurence Ralph talks with people whose lives are irrecoverably damaged, seeking to understand how they cope and how they can be better helped.
           
Going deep into a West Side neighborhood most Chicagoans only know from news reports—a place where children have been shot just for crossing the wrong street—Ralph unearths the fragile humanity that fights to stay alive there, to thrive, against all odds. He talks to mothers, grandmothers, and pastors, to activists and gang leaders, to the maimed and the hopeful, to aspiring rappers, athletes, or those who simply want safe passage to school or a steady job. Gangland Chicago, he shows, is as complicated as ever. It’s not just a warzone but a community, a place where people’s dreams are projected against the backdrop of unemployment, dilapidated housing, incarceration, addiction, and disease, the many hallmarks of urban poverty that harden like so many scars in their lives. Recounting their stories, he wrestles with what it means to be an outsider in a place like this, whether or not his attempt to understand, to help, might not in fact inflict its own damage. Ultimately he shows that the many injuries these people carry—like dreams—are a crucial form of resilience, and that we should all think about the ghetto differently, not as an abandoned island of unmitigated violence and its helpless victims but as a neighborhood, full of homes, as a part of the larger society in which we all live, together, among one another.

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Every morning Chicagoans wake up to the same stark headlines that read like some macabre score: “13 shot, 4 dead overnight across the city,” and nearly every morning the same elision occurs: what of the nine other victims? As with war, much of our focus on inner-city violence is on the death toll, but the reality is that far more victi...

Laurence Ralph is assistant professor in the Departments of Anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. 

other books by Laurence Ralph

Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:September 15, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022603271X

ISBN - 13:9780226032719

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Dramatis Personae
Preface

PART ONE † The Injury of Isolation
INTRODUCTION  ‡  THE  UNDERSIDE OF INJURY OR, HOW TO DREAM LIKE A RENEGADE
Field Notes: Late Death

1 ‡ Development
OR , WHY GRANDMOTHERS  ALLY  WITH THE GANG
Field Notes: early Funerals

2 ‡ Nostalgia
OR, THE STORIES A GANG TELLS ABOUT ITSELF
Field Notes: Inside Jokes

3 ‡ Authenticity
OR, WHY PEOPLE CAN’T LEAVE THE GANG
PART TWO † The Resilience of Dreams
Field Notes: Getting In

4 ‡ Disability
OR, WHY A GANG LEADER HELPS STOP THE VIOLENCE
Field Notes: Resilience

5 ‡ Disease
OR, HOW A WILL TO SURVIVE HELPS THE HEALING
Field Notes: Framing

CONCLUSION ‡ THE FRAME
OR, HOW TO GET OUT OF AN ISOLATED SPACE

POSTSCRIPT ‡ A RENEGADE DREAM COME TRUE

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“In Renegade Dreams, Ralph has achieved what few ethnographers, investigative journalists, and drive-by sociologists ever do: a radical empathy for his subjects that refuses to impose a colonial worldview. At the heart of this book is a fierce utopian sensibility expressed by the dogged optimism of Chicago residents—felled by bullets and injured in a thousand ways—but who insist on participating in our aspiration society. Young men in wheelchairs, bodies half-dead, glide like rolling zombies in our mind’s eye and yet leap from these pages with life and vigor. Their dreams carry forth in politics, play, poetry, and prose. They live in defiance of statistical narratives of the violent isolated ghetto. Theoretically rich and superbly written, this book exposes what is hidden in plain sight: the full humanity of people whose lives are greater than the sum of their pain and peril and far more connected to ours than we’d like to believe.”