Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exiled for Loyalty

In this weeks reading, Hasan was exiled from his community for standing up for his brother-in-law. He then traveled/exiled to Egypt. Where he employed his time as a diplomat. He later traveled to Rome. In Rome, Pope Leo X took particular interest in Hasan. While in Rome, he was baptized and took on the name of Leo Africanus.

I love the idea of Hasan taking a new name. Our names because our identity throughout our lives. What we choose to be called and how we choose to introduce ourselves to the world is extremely telling. On the most basic level, our names can dictate our heritage, in some cases our religious background, and even the formality (when you choose to be called Matthew instead of Matt). Nicknames can form bonds within groups, can give an individual to embrace a different name or version, or even distinguish an individual from a crowd.

Its interesting to me that Hasan chose to take the name Leo Africanus. The name is so different from his cultural identity. Or rather his childhood cultural identity. From the first page of the book Hasan declares himself not a man of a nation or tribe, but a man of travel.

Can anyone truly become a man of travel? Or are we forever burdened with our cultures? Is our ability to distinguish ourselves apart from our previous cultures contingent on our own perspectives, others perspective of our cultures, or both?


  1. It's interesting that you take a more positive outlook on Hasan's name change and relate to his self-identification as a man of travel at the beginning of the book. You make a good point. I was interpreting the name change far more negatively. Hasan cries with exclamation points on page 297 that no one in his family had ever been called Johannes or John Leo! He says his name in different languages, seemingly to try and make it fit or feel right. He wonders if it will eventually happen for him that he will look in the mirror and think Leo, and forget Hasan. It is as if he is changing his identity. He "tamed" his new name by Arabicizing it. This version of his name seems to represent him more as a man of travel, a multicultural man, because it combines his roots and his new life. I was troubled that Hasan seemed very troubled, but only momentarily and not angrily. He was soon after resigned, it seemed, to his new life. Why?

  2. That is a very interesting question you bring up. I believe you are always kind of stuck with the culture you are born into and raised in, and while your knowledge of other cultures can continue growing, you can never completely escape your initial culture. it will forever be your base. Although, I think people can be travelers, and be "a man of travel," but I don't believe we can ever get rid of our initial tribe. So Hasan's case is quite interesting, but underneath it all he is from one tribe in one place and everything else and every other place he has traveled is just added to his base. I also found your interpretation of the name change interesting as did the comment above. I took it more negatively, but I can also see where you come from, and I like your positivity.