By Priscilla Wald

About Priscilla Wald

Priscilla Wald is Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Duke University. She is the author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form and Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. She is currently at work on a book-length study, “Human Being after Genocide.”


“Naturalization” evolved as a keyword along with the modern conceptions of political belonging that we have come to associate with the nation. The term appeared first in Middle French to describe the conferral of the rights and privileges of a native-born subject on a foreigner. While the noun form dates from the late sixteenth century, the verb “naturalize” preceded it by a century. Usage of “naturalize” spread quickly throughout western Europe in the sixteenth century, expanding to include the conversion of something foreign—words and phrases, beliefs and practices—into something familiar or native. With roots in the Renaissance, “naturalize” and “naturalization” continue to register the concerns of the moment of their coinage: an emerging interest in social classification and taxonomy, an increasing emphasis on human agency and the potential to adapt sufficiently to a new environment to enable settlement, and a fascination with the interplay between the natural world and human …

Embodiments, Nature, Places
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