Domestic derives from the Latin domus (house) through the Middle French domestique. The OED’s earliest usages are in sixteenth century, by which time the word already had multiple meanings: quasi-familial intimacy, as in the 1521 supplication “make hym domestique / Within the heuyns,” but also homegrown rather than foreign. While domestic always implied closeness, the extent of the sphere of proximity varied. That sphere might be the individual (Norris’s 1707 Treatise on Humility defines domestic ignorance as “the ignorance of… what passes within our own breast” [OED]); the household, as in domestics meaning “servants”; the nation, as in domestic policy; or humankind generally, since domestic animal includes livestock in other countries and eras. What the domestic excludes—wild animals, strangers, foreigners—partakes of the alien, a binary enabling hierarchy, conflict, and exploitation.

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