Chris Karnadi is a culture and religion writer currently studying at Duke Divinity School. His bylines include Presbyterian Outlook, Yale’s Glossolalia, and DJBooth. Follow him on Twitter

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Singer Mitski Doesn't Owe Us Anything

by Chris Karnadi 09-23-2019
Her performance is a powerful inversion of expectations for Asian women in America.

Mitski's fifth studio album, Be the Cowboy / Dead Oceans

IN A SMALL VENUE, I watched Mitski perch on a white chair behind a white table, fold her hands, and start to sing emotional ballads.

The 29-year-old musician was performing in Carrboro, N.C., from her fifth studio album, Be the Cowboy. It’s one of my favorites from 2018 and plays with the American cowboy mythology in its loneliness (“My God, I’m so lonely ... still nobody wants me,”) and longing (“I just can’t be without you”).

I expected a typical concert, hearing favorite songs and seeing Mitski’s personality. But I was jarred by the lack of emotion she showed. The entire time she sang, her face was resolute and hardened, a seeming contradiction with her heartrending lyrics.

Second, she danced sensually, even while her face remained impassive. She wore nothing “sexy”—a white T-shirt, biker shorts, and kneepads—as she executed carefully choreographed sequences. But she leaned forward, slanted her hips, and flicked her hair. She climbed onto the table and spread her legs toward the audience. Yet she never broke a smile, never performed the emotion of eroticism.

Whiteness Determines Which Artworks Can Be ‘Masterpieces’

by Chris Karnadi 07-03-2019
We've had enough ‘masters.’

Detail of “Under the Wave Off Kanagawa,” by Katsushika Hokusai / Apple’s wave emoji

WHEN I TRAVEL to a city, I find art museums and their masterpieces: “Sunflowers” in Amsterdam, the “Prodigal Son” in St. Petersburg, “David” in Florence. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo. These are masters, according to some cultural imagination.

But it wasn’t until this past April that I encountered an Asian master and masterpiece: Katsushika Hokusai’s “Under the Wave Off Kanagawa.” The print is better known as “The Great Wave”—you know, the Apple wave emoji. Why is this the first Asian masterpiece that I’ve seen?

Respecting the Spirituality Behind Marie Kondo's 'Tidying Up'

by Chris Karnadi 01-29-2019

"Tidying Up with Marie Kondo" on Netflix.

Kondo focuses not on the aesthetic or the number of things; she instead focuses on the owner’s relationship to the object itself, whether or not it “sparks joy.” She advises, “Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” This relationship to objects is crucial to Kondo’s method and hinges on her Shinto background. Though KonMari is self-help, it’s self-help rooted in a Shinto spirituality. 

Childish Gambino Offered Me Religious Experience, Not A Product

by Chris Karnadi 10-02-2018

Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino has become a cultural icon. From his comedic work in Community to his acting in both Marvel and Star Wars franchises to his writing and producing of the critically acclaimed show Atlanta, the versatile Grammy-nominated artist is a creative force. Throughout all of this commercial and critical success, Donald Glover has refused to frame his work as a product; instead he wants to offer a participatory experience, a religious experience even.

Asian Representation Needs Both 'Crazy Rich Asians' and 'Sorry to Bother You'

by Chris Karnadi 09-07-2018

The rift between rich and poor runs deeply through the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. A recent Pew study reveals that Asians, as a whole, “rank as the highest earning racial and ethnic group in the U.S.” But the top 10 percent of AAPI persons earn 10.7 times the amount of those in the bottom 10 percent.