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Going native

Posted by Bob on September 03, 2007

In Reply to: Going native posted by Jane Bennett on September 03, 2007

: I am looking for the origin of the phrase "going native". It is often used to describe anthropologists' or travellers' growing immersion in new cultures they are engaged with (and has a racist note in it). But I can't find a source and would be grateful for information

Not an origin, but another, perhaps older, use. In the (U.S.) State Department, diplomats and other embassy personnel are rotated to differenet countries at intervals, at least partly to avoid the problem of them "going native," meaning that they become so acculturated and familiar that they begin to identify with and sympathize with the locals, to the point of not representing our own national interests. It's a delicate balance: diplomacy requires experience and understanding of the host country, but too much experience, and one can forget who's signing the pay checks.