2009 Lange-Taylor Prize: Teru Kuwayama and Christian Parenti, "Unnatural Borders, Open Wounds: The Human Landscape of Pakistan"

Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 9:00am

Teru Kuwayama

Christian Parenti

The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University has awarded the nineteenth Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize to photographer Teru Kuwayama and writer Christian Parenti, both Americans. The $20,000 award is given to encourage collaboration in documentary work in the tradition of acclaimed American photographer Dorothea Lange and writer and social scientist Paul Taylor. Lange and Taylor worked together for many years, most notably on fieldwork that resulted in American Exodus (1941), a seminal work in documentary studies.

Christian Parenti and Teru Kuwayama’s project, “Unnatural Borders, Open Wounds: The Human Landscape of Pakistan,” will explore Pakistan “through the lives of its myriad ethnic and tribal groups, and its vast population of refugees and displaced peoples.

“Pakistan’s short and troubled national history began in 1947, in a violent ‘partition’ from what had been the British Indian Empire. As many as 1 million people were killed as India and Pakistan split along religious lines, and an estimated 15 million refugees fled to majority Hindu or Muslim sides of the blood-soaked border that sliced through the province of Punjab. Since then, three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan for control of the region of Kashmir, and three million people have been displaced along a simmering fault line known as the Line of Control.

“The northern border of Pakistan dates from 1893, when a junior British officer drew the Durand Line separating the region from Afghanistan — arbitrarily splitting a vast tribal area that remains the heart of ‘Pashtunistan.’ Two centuries later, the United States, its NATO allies, and the Pakistani army remained mired in fighting along this imaginary line.’

Together, Kuwayama and Parenti propose “to investigate the multi-faceted nature of Pakistani national identity and to probe some of the underlying causes for the country’s instability. Our goal is to approach the complexity of this nation’s history and its future through the individual portraits and histories of the people who have been swept across its borders.

Kuwayama and Parenti first met in Baghdad in 2003. They were in Iraq independently, but over the course of their travels, they visited many of the same places and recorded their parallel journeys. They later coauthored the book The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq, in which their “respective words and images do not mirror each other, but provide alternate dimensions to a moment in Iraq’s history.” In 2004, they traveled together in Afghanistan for six weeks.

Of their collaboration in Pakistan, they write, “Our mediums are different, but we share a conviction and a critical sensibility that makes our respective works especially relevant to each other. We take intensely personal approaches to our work, and neither of us attempts to strip our feelings from our reportage. The story we intend to tell will cover a complex range of history, geography, and ethnicity, and will require all of our skills --- as writer and photographer --- to approach and comprehend.”

Teru Kuwayama is a freelance photographer based in New York. His photographs have appeared in such magazines as Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, Outside, Fortune, and Vibe. Kuwayama has received awards and fellowships from the Eugene Smith Fund, the Alicia Patterson Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Alexia Foundation, and the South Asian Journalists Association, among others. He is a 2009–2010 John S. Knight Foundation Fellow at Stanford University, with a focus on conflict reporting in South Asia. He is also the cofounder of the web-based network Lightstalkers and the curator of the traveling exhibition Battlespace: Unrealities of War.

Christian Parenti is a contributing editor for The Nation and Playboy. He has reported extensively from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. His work has appeared in Fortune, The Nation, Playboy, Salon, The London Review of Books, The International Herald Tribune, and Mother Jones. He has written three books, including The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (The New Press, 2004), and has a Ph.D. in sociology from the London School of Economics. Parenti has been a Soros Senior Justice Fellow and a Ford Foundation Fellow at the City University of New York’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. He is currently a Rockefeller Brothers Fund supported research fellow at the Nation Institute.