name my kid for a hero of cosmopolitanism
March 29, 2013 8:39 AM   Subscribe

So my wife is pregnant. Hooray! (Still early enough that we don't know the gender). We're starting to think about names. It seems to me that the world's great hope and story of progress is the expansion of rights and consideration of the views & interests of an ever-widening swath of humanity. Which historical figures stand for pluralism, for rejecting provincialism, in word or deed? I've picked up, but haven't yet read Kwame Anthony Appiah's Cosmopolitanism; I'd be grateful for suggestions of books or other resources that might be useful.

I can be reached at My wife & I are white people in the United States, if that affects people's frame of reference (but wouldn't that be uncosmopolitan if it did). The last name will be two syllables, accent on the first one, long E sound in the second one, sorta like "Colby".

I suppose Henry IV of France could work-- "Paris is worth a mass", he supposedly said as he converted to Catholicism in order to become king. But I'm hoping for more well-considered examples.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How about Diogenes, the first who proclaimed himself a "citizen of the world," or Magellan the circumnavigator? It may be challenging, in the Western tradition, to find major figures with distinctive names who have lived truly worldly lives yet not imperialistically so.
posted by taramosalata at 9:05 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by notquitemaryann at 9:13 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Alexander the Great is definitely number one in this department. Also maybe Ashoka.
posted by facetious at 9:19 AM on March 29, 2013

I like Mandela.
posted by bearwife at 9:41 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It seems like most historical worldly figures who come immediately to mind are either conquerors or explorers, and as such tend to be fiercely provincial and/or antithetical to pluralism, regardless of how much travelling they did. So it seems like you'd want to narrow your search to historical ambassadors, philosophers, and well-traveled authors and artists.

Figures from The Enlightenment might be a good place to look, given that the period was characterized by the free flow of art, literature, and philosophy around the world.
posted by smoq at 9:43 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about Nelson?
posted by HandfulOfDust at 9:43 AM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

The architect of European unity Jean Monnet.
posted by deanc at 9:44 AM on March 29, 2013

I like Ramses -- Ramses the Great was the writer and one of the signatories to the first written peace treaty between nations ever. I heard that he treated Nefertari as a co ruler as well.–Hattusili_Treaty
posted by spunweb at 10:06 AM on March 29, 2013

Ibn Battuta and Zheng He come to mind.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:37 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the possibility of cross cultural names appeals, Amina
posted by thatdawnperson at 10:38 AM on March 29, 2013

Zenobia was of mixed descent in the middle east and quite consciously promoted herself as a transnational leader connected to all the various ethnic groups of the local kingdoms.
posted by deanc at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gene, for Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek? Normal enough to be a "normal name" if zhe needs it, geeky for those in the know, and definitely an advocate of pluralism. Plus, easy feminization if that's a concern of yours!
posted by blue_and_bronze at 10:51 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anacharsis Cloots!
posted by otio at 10:55 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't fathom a little kid carrying this name, but Desiderius Erasmus fits the bill. Renaissance itinerant scholar and a priest committed to reforming the Catholic Church from within. And his legacy in modern Europe is a continent-wide system of educational exchange.
posted by Liesl at 11:16 AM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Marco for Marco Polo?
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:26 AM on March 29, 2013

posted by Alaska Jack at 11:41 AM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well there's Mansa Musa but Musa is actually the same name as Moses, I think.
"His building program caused an intellectual and economic expansion that would continue into the later Middle Ages. It also established Mali as an economic "global power" and one of the intellectual capitals of the world. Mali became well known attracting students as far as Europe and Asia. Mansa Musa is also credited with assisting the birth of Sudano-Sahelian architecture and the spread of Islamic religion in western Africa. His military campaigns allowed Mali to become the most powerful military on the continent rivaled only by Morocco and Egypt. His greatest legacy, however, was the hajj which not only caused an economic inflation in Mediterranean but indirectly supplied financial support for the Italian renaissance."
How about Marley? More than one way to be a hero.
posted by glasseyes at 12:09 PM on March 29, 2013

James Mooney was a 19th/early 20th century anthropologist studying Native Americans. At a time when Native Americans were vilified and overtly discriminated against, and at considerable risk to his career, he advocated for Native Americans, and testified in favor of Native American peyotists at Congressional hearings, and he advised peyotists of various Oklahoma tribes to obtain a legal charter to protect their religious freedom.
posted by gudrun at 1:01 PM on March 29, 2013

posted by mattbucher at 1:59 PM on March 29, 2013

Terence is Appiah's favorite example (see the last section here). He famously wrote "I am human, I consider nothing human alien to me."
posted by ecmendenhall at 2:13 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

The preponderance of male names is instructive. Where my cosmopolitan ladeeeez at?

Anna (for a historian who crusaded against the Crusaders)
Maybe just go through this Britannica list and see if anything catches your fancy?

I'm supportive of ethnically incongruous names in the abstract (as in, when I was 19, I wanted to have a classical Greek name for my imaginary child), but really don't know how your kid can rock a Vietnamese name, for example, unless you are planning to raise her in Vietnam. Assimilation is a powerful force but I'm not sure if it can win out over globalization and the rise of English-language names (or their close variants).
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:24 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe 20th century scholars and scientists will be fruitful? Ruth Benedict, Sylvia Earle, Dian Fossey (though her unsolved death is unsettling), Margaret Mead.

Also, a nice timeline of explorers from Nat'l Geographic - though explorers still get tangled up in colonialism (e.g. Gertrude Bell)
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:57 PM on March 29, 2013

Mir - in Russian, it means both "world" and "peace".
posted by amtho at 4:59 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by reren at 6:24 PM on March 29, 2013

Helen (for Helen Keller or Helen Hamilton Gardener)
Ella Maillart
posted by gudrun at 6:47 PM on March 29, 2013


"Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."
posted by stuck on an island at 3:19 AM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sebastian (for Sebastian Castellio)?
posted by amy lecteur at 4:49 AM on March 30, 2013

Eliza, for Eliza Scidmore, who was responsible for the cherry trees first being planted Washington, DC, among other things.
posted by gudrun at 7:42 AM on March 30, 2013

My wife & I are white people in the United States, if that affects people's frame of reference (but wouldn't that be uncosmopolitan if it did).

Yes but we live in an uncosmopolitan reality. Two white people living in the middle of DC (or umm, anywhere) naming their kid Mandela or Kwame is problematic on a number of levels, as are a number of these suggestions, in the way that the more generic Nelson would not be.

Suggestions: Noam, Emmanuel, Lavina, a selection of the mostly-male cosmopolitans, a good number of the world's suffragettes.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:20 AM on March 30, 2013

posted by The corpse in the library at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2013

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