Le Boogie Woogie: An After-Hours a Club

Columbia University Press, 2020

This book is about and for people interested in the fast life of the city where cocaine use and sex are commonplace. Williams provides a dynamic cosmopolitan worldview, a wide-eyed- on- the- ground portrait with the ethnographer as thinker, flaneur, and cosmopolite. The patrons in Le Boogie Woogie has a vocabulary of hundreds of  words that punctuate their experiences; from the raunchy life of players, madams, hipsters, poets, musicians, voyeurs and others: they are  all out for a night on the town with cocaine in their pockets ready for a sniff. Williams keeps a keen eye for detail, the sounds, sights, and smells of the city permeate every page of this book.

Terry Williams has already established himself as a master of gaining access to hard-to-reach, hidden, and vulnerable populations. He has done so again here, giving an in-depth look at a place with which most people will be totally unfamiliar in a vivid and compelling style.” Richard E. Ocejo | Author of Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy


Cocaine | Deviant behavior | Social Control | Symbolic Interaction | Women’s Issues | Women’s Drug Use

The Soft City: Sex for Business and Pleasure in New York City

Columbia University Press 2022

The Soft City: On Voyeurism and Engagement is a journey of discovery, an exploration into a “perverse space." It is a place of sex shops and bawdy houses, hotels of assignation, prostitute strolls, gay spots, pimp bars, after hours clubs, burlesque joints, peepshows and five dollar sex emporiums. This place is synonymous with city sexuality, both as the city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare and as a location naturally segregated on the basis of interest and attitudes.

The Soft City is a time-machine ride to a vanished New York, one in which the sex trade was wide open—at once brazen and furtive, anonymous and eccentric, mundane and bizarre, outrageous and straitjacketed by repression. The impressive level of detail steeps the reader in all the sights, sounds, and even smells that cannot be experienced in today’s world of distanced online pornography. ” – Lucy Sante | Professor, Bard College


Sex | Sex Clubs | Fetish Culture | Sex Work | Prostitution | Orgy

The Vanishing Indian Upper Class: Life History of Raza Mohammed Khan

Anthem Press 2020

The Vanishing Indian Upper Class is based on a life-narrative [true-life story] and contains various elements of history, politics, religion, literature and poetry. In anonymized form it dramatizes a personal family history focused around a continuing and unresolved family inheritance and property dispute, which provides the story with its dramatic tension. The main subjects in the narrative which speaks beyond the life story itself are: the human spirit; honor; betrayal; violence; love; politics; and those bonds beyond kith and kin known as comradeship and engagement. The work covers two continents involving the Indian upper class and describes how Raza Mohammed Khan and his family legacy is revealed.

“As India shudders and splits apart, this enthralling ethnography traces one royal family’s story as it loses its place in the old social order, disperses to Baghdad, Karachi and London, and struggles to maintain family ties and traditions even as it adapts to the new world.” — Anwar Shaikh | Professor of Economics, New School for Social Research


Poverty | Class | Economics | History | Social Caste | Religion

On Ethnography

Polity Press, 2018

In turn creative thinker and street flaneur, careful planner and adventurer, empathic listener and distant voyeur, recluse writer and active participant: the ethnographer is all at once. In this book, sociologists Sarah Daynes and Terry Williams team up to explore the art of ethnographic research and the many complex decisions it requires. Using their extensive fieldwork experience in the United States and Europe and hours spent in the classroom training new ethnographers, they illustrate, discuss and reflect on the many complex decisions ethnography requires. This book will be particularly helpful for students in sociology and other disciplines in which ethnography has become a useful research method.

“On Ethnography is an exquisite essay on the ethnographic study of everyday life. Page by page we step into the field and linger with Daynes and Williams, deliberate the knotty paradox of social responsibility, experience the self-exposure of documenting, and find ourselves debating the nature of explanation, description, and interpretation. An impassioned and persuasive treatise on the process of doing and writing ethnography.” – Carol Stack | Professor, University of California, Berkeley


Ethnography | Field Research

Teenage Suicide Notes. An Ethnography of Self-Harm

Columbia University Press, 2017

In this book and reading the confessions of a teenager contemplating suicide may be uncomfortable, but we must do so to understand why self-harm has become an epidemic, especially in the United States. What drives teenagers to self-harm? What makes death so attractive, so liberating, and so inevitable for so many? Williams captures the currents that turn self-destruction into an act of self-determination, which also allows him to propose more effective solutions to resolving the suicide crisis.

Always the compassionate listener and watchful ethnographer, Terry Williams courageously takes on teenage suicide, one of the nations most vexing and tragic subjects, He understands the problem as a father, mentor, teacher, and friend of victims and their families. May the voices of despairing teenagers whom Terry Williams has presented here be heard throughout the nation.” – William Kornblum | Doctoral Program in Sociology, Graduate Center City University of New York


Youth | Girls | Parenting | Gay Life | Self-harm | Queer Theory | Crossdressing

Harlem Supers: The Social Life of a Community in Transition

Palgrave-Macmillan, 2016

This is a micro-ethnography and in-depth analysis examining the superintendent occupation within the broader context of New York City. The work aims to provide an understanding of the life of superintendents and the role they play in the city, the building, the block, and the neighborhood as contributors to the analysis of migration patterns, community-building, and displacement in specific American Urban areas.

Terry Williams’s book is much more than a great ethnography of supers. It presents a long durée participant-observation theoretical critique of the tragedy of the neoliberal gentrification of Harlem and between the lines delivers a very personal coming of age autobiography; from working as a super's  apprentice, a bonafide super and eventually as an insider landlord/speculator without ever abandoning his roots or his solidarity with his everyday neighbors. He offers a unique voice as an inner-city survivor.” – Philippe Bourgois | Visiting Professor, University of California


Race | Janitors | Social One | Harlem | Employment

The Con Men: Hustling in New York City (with Trevor Milton)

Columbia University Press, 2015

The New York City landscape plays an important role in the con game, though its part can be latent and passive. Con artists and hustlers use busy transportation hubs (such as Union Sq. Times Sq. or Grand Central Station), crowded city streets, or in some cases, deserted side streets as part of their plots.

Part sociology and part psychology and always interesting history,The Con Men is a valuable tool in understanding how this small community, living in a gray market, manages to survive in a society that for the most part rejects and disdains them.” – Patrick O’Reilly | Professor, Stanford University


Race | Hustling | Masculinity | Street life | City Life | Con Games

The Uptown Kids. Struggle and Hope in the Projects (with William Kornblum)

G.P. Putnam and Sons, 1994

The main theme of this book is that housing projects can be good places to raise children and adolescents. They can also become centers for community building, and bases for emergency efforts to enhance children’s safety. Our experience with young people in Harlem tell us that projects should be viewed as centers of neighborhood renewal and islands of hope.

Through the eyes of the young people, we get a new look at the world of urban public housing. The Uptown Kids is a fascinating story of the hopes and aspirations of youths, and the efforts of their parents to maintain the stable environments of the projects while confronting the challenges of the surrounding ghetto neighborhood.” – William Julius Wilson | Professor, University of Chicago


Poverty | Community Life | Family Life | Public Housing Projects Gang

Crackhouse: Notes from the End of the Line

Penguin Books, 1992

In this vivid, terrifying, and uncompromising human account the study penetrates the shuttered scenes of a New York crackhouse and gives voices to the women and men who live there in an arrangement that suggests both a family and an aboriginal urban tribe.

A vivid ethnography of the crack culture; a terrifying picture of all nine circles of Hell.” – Robert K. Merton | Professor, Columbia University


Toxicomania | Cocaine | Crack Culture | Race

Growing up Poor (with William Kornblum) 

MacMillian Company Lexington Books, 1998

This ethnographic study looks at teenagers trapped in poverty—how some succeed in the struggle to get out and others finally give up trying. It is an outgrowth of interviews with some 900 teens in Cleveland, Ohio, New York City, Louisville, Kentucky, and Meridian, Mississippi. The neighborhoods where they live are socially and racially diverse. Among them are white areas sliding into poverty as traditional blue-collar jobs in smokestack industries fade away; and Black/Hispanic neighborhoods where chronic unemployment has long been the prevailing tradition and fact of life coexist.

Based on the teenagers’ own accounts, the book describes their experiences with working and seeking work, achievements in school and athletics, family life, and the positive influences of their peers and adult mentors.It also details the negative choices that tend to make poverty a life sentence: prostitution and street hustles, pregnancy and early parenthood, gang membership and criminal outlets, drugs and withdrawal into despair. Still, hope is an unquenchable attribute of youth, and it bubbles up in this book as the authors show how much these teenagers seek to do for themselves in exercising their limited options.” –  Kirkus Reviews (Book Cover Design by Kahlil Zulu Williams)


Youth | Poverty | Unemployment | Inequality | Race Underprivileged Youth | Rural Life

The Cocaine Kids: The Inside Story of a Teenage Drug Ring

Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1989

The lives of eight young cocaine dealers are examined in depth through daily routine with both its stresses and high points; this world comes alive as do the places where they meet, play ball, sell cocaine and rap.

Mr. Williams combines his talent as a keen observer with thoughtful, sophisticated analysis— (This) eye-opening account should be widely read, for it provides some of the understanding that could help this nation to formulate the complex policies and programs to ensure that the inner-city youngsters coming of age in the 1990s will not be doomed to repeat the sad struggle of the cocaine kids.” – The New York Times Book Review


Cocaine | Opioid Use | Drug dealers | Youth | Girls Gangs Youth Culture