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Fist (Object Lessons)

Fist (Object Lessons)

Current price: $14.95
Publication Date: January 9th, 2025
Bloomsbury Academic


Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.

Our ability to make a fist is what distinguishes humans from every other species, including primates. The fist played a crucial role in the birth of language and appears in nearly every form of nonverbal communication, particularly haptics and kinesiology. We use our fist to protest oppression, give pleasure, knock on doors, give daps, and (inaccurately) measure our hearts-yet we see them as a sign of someone on the edge.

This book asks what happens when we lean over the edge of what a fist can do and symbolize. Fist uses historical moments and artifacts, primary interviews, and personal narratives to explore the fist's polysemous and divisive nature. Fist examines knuckle tattoos, the Black Power salute, Obama's fist bumps, the Fig, and fisting, the last sexual taboo. Fist uncovers what flexing our knuckles says, not just about us, but the world in which we live.

Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.

About the Author

nelle mills is a freelance writer and playwright based in St. Louis, USA. She is the author of Alleged Lesbian Activities (play, first produced at The Theater at St. Claude, New Orleans, 2016) and Blood Charm (play, first produced at the Tisch School for the Arts, New York, 2011).