This is the second essay in our rubric Stasis @ The Salon, in which we will publish selected fragments from new issues of the journal Stasis, covering a broad range of topics, from the purely philosophical (such as negativity) to the culturally and historically specific (such as social movements, religion, and sexuality). The new rubric, and the journal it is based on, aim to provide an international intellectual format that can open the space for a dialogue between English- and Russian-language philosophical traditions.


In one of the notes from his fragmentary and unfinished work on cultural apocalypse —published posthumously under the title La fine del mondo (The end of the world)—Italian anthropologist Ernesto De Martino describes an ancient Roman ritual designated by the expression mundus patet: “the world is open”.[1]

The mundus was a pit that opened three times a year to bring the dead back to earth. According to De Martino’s reconstruction, the days during which the mundus remained open were considered to be calamitous and it was imperative to abstain from any kind of human activity. “Not only was it prohibited to engage in battle during those days,” as Latin grammarian and philosopher Macrobius recounted in his Saturnalia, “but also to recruit armies and send them to war, weigh anchor, or take a wife.”[2] Through the mundus, the earth of the living was open and permeable to the realm of the dead, exposed to chaos. However, once these nefarious days were over, daily life could resume normally. “The ritual of the mundus,” writes the author of La fine del mondo, evokes “the risk of an end of the world crisis, exorcising and containing it through the limitation, in time and space, of the return of the dead and the end of all human cultural activity”.[3] The “cultural apocalypse” is defined as the “risk of not being able to exist in any possible cultural world.” While “the end of ‘a’ world,” says De Martino in his epilogue, remains “in the order of human cultural history, it is the end of ‘the’ world, as the ultimate experience of the end of any possible world, which constitutes the most radical risk”.[4]

From his early research on the magical rituals of southern Italy, De Martino investigated the existence of a “magical world,” wherein presence in the world is neither certain nor guaranteed, but rather always exposed to the risk of transience and annihilation, to the danger of losing one’s soul and no longer being there. “Being there,” as De Martino reflects becomes a “having to be there” whose horizon is marked by a dynamic and socially constructed limit, in constant need of being recovered. In the magical world, presence is something uncertain that has to be continually restored, for behind the risk of losing the soul lies the other, greater risk of losing the world.

Through the ritual of mundus, Roman civilization was able to face and exorcise the risk of a chaotic end of the world, that is, of the city, its inhabitants, its culture. It did so by representing this threat with the periodic return of the dead, and by controlling it through a communitarian exorcism. This exorcism fixes spatially and temporally within a symbolic place and an iterative time, both the risk of the end and the cultural response to it—namely its foundation and recommencement. The apocalypse begins when putting things back in order becomes impossible—when not only this world becomes impracticable, but when worldliness itself—what allows humans to make a world—disappears.

Delimiting the end—giving it a determined meaning as annihilation, solution, liquidation—leads to alienation, which is experienced as a lack of signification. The experience of the immundus is felt as the devastating evidence of non-sense.


If the twentieth century has long explored the possibility of a tabula rasa, a purifying epitome,[5] the twenty-first century seems to open with a sense of exhaustion, of depletion of resources, of decrease in the forces. This interpretation of actuality as a progressive attenuation of an initial, primal, uncontaminated energy is accompanied by a specific idea of limit and consequently of rationality and “world.” As Michael Marder observes in his Energy Dreams, the concept of “end” as an achievable objective or a sudden cessation “foreign to the consummation of movement and the satisfaction of rest” should be ascribed to an impoverished and arbitrary sense of limit, conceived as “a razor-sharp edge where a spatial surface or a temporal line abruptly drops, rather than a boundary or a border, for instance, between motley worlds”[6]. Furthermore, the figure of the “end” as exhaustion of a given energy, mechanically doomed to extinction, has generated a consequent ideology of sustainability, which resulted in an image of the planet as a closed system, “a laboratory of checks and balance, birth and decay, predator and prey, creation and destruction”.[7]

Bernard Stiegler describes our age as an “age of disruption,” which radicalizes innovation to such an extent that it “prevents any metastabilization with the other systems that constitute the social body” through the “creation of legal and theoretical vacuums”.[8] Be that as it may, it is evident that the orientation of contemporary economic reason is to suppress some of the arbitrary excesses of the capitalist system by turning it into an adaptive process that is constantly updated on the basis of data concerning the allocation of specific resources. This development model seems to reproduce the natural cycles of activity and stoppages of an organism, whereby exploitation would become, so to speak, “natural,” working according to a rhythm of scarcity and abundance. The general determination of the energy circulating in the planet would therefore be determined by ends, requiring a concurrent accumulation to guarantee a “sustainable” future, economically defined.


Modern earth, characterized as a combination of natural resources, fertile soils, building materials, territories to occupy, has had its own possibility to exist only in its constitutive relationship with the corresponding emergence of multiple Terrae Nullius. These were specifically designated lands, which were not exploited by their inhabitants, and which could be therefore appropriated by colonizers and invaders from foreign worlds. The earth became in this way the traditional foundation of the right of property exploitation. But at the same time, as a complementary response to the abstract violence of this movement of territorialization, the earth has become the figure that embodies an extreme point, the innermost part, that which constitutes the ultimate background, that which stands behind or underneath, the fundus of thought itself. Consequently, geological dynamism, morphogenesis, and glaciology have become a poetic reserve capable of altering the perception of time, space, and human actions, allowing a new earth to emerge, untouched by the abstract logics of economic trans-actions. Because of its dense superficiality, in interactive contact with other states of matter, this new earth becomes the privileged threshold to reach, the shock point between different conditions of knowledge.

This philosophical earth, which represents what exceeds all possessions, in its unfathomable dimension of depth, density and impenetrability, seems to reproduce—via negative—what we have witnessed as the trend of modernity: to make the implicit explicit, to illuminate what remained in the dark, to reveal what was hidden, to bring the latent out of its retreat, to display the background. Similarly, we could say that Western philosophy during the last century attempted to conceive the unrepresentable, to think a catastrophe that the reason of the epoch was unable to understand, and to maintain this unrepresentable at the heart of thought. “After Auschwitz,” philosophy derives its power to think from the unthinkable, from that which resists any dialectical assimilation. It was able to convert, wrote Jacques Rancière, “the ‘impossibility’ of art after Auschwitz into an art of the unpresentable”.[9] Thus, philosophy feeds on the expectation that the earth could be the figure of the inexpressible itself—the perennially neglected part, which is never expressed in form, the obscure reserve of the sayable and the visible. Earth is, in this sense, the undiscovered continent, which, nonetheless, does not permit itself to be colonized—the final and unique limit of all philosophical knowledge.

The manifestation of this earth, a testimony to the absolute Other that haunts thought, is still bound to a theophanic horizon: to a unique earth corresponds a unique, catastrophic revelation, without remains, that will transform every earthling into an inhabitant of an age where any distinction between near and far, neighbors and foreigners, has become invalid. An age, to say it in the words of Günther Anders, wherein “we are all proximi”.[10] Just as the Western imagery of the “ecological crisis” has erased the colonial reality, there seems to be a persistent colonial arrogance on the part of the current generation of “collapsonauts”[11] in referring to a unique world catastrophe, without borders, without differences.

If conceived as an ultimate and unique limit, earth can only be archaic. This archaic, monumental earth emerges from the moment when there is no longer any orientation for what is materially possible, thus, in the disorientation with respect to a unique abstract horizon for human praxis. However, this collapse of a given world can also give rise, instead, to what Badiou called an inexistant, something that is not possible within the world—where “world” designates the logic of its own appearing. This inexistent is not a hidden reserve of the existent for it cannot exist in one world; rather, it exposes us, against the catastrophic finitude imposed by “democratic materialism”,[12] to the infinity of worlds.[13]


We are therefore summoned to think an-archically, of other earths. The earth has never existed, for the conditions of its existence are undefinable, though not unthinkable. As we argued, the unthinkable has been represented by twentieth-century philosophy—in the most diverse possible forms—as the domain that could no longer be thought by thought, as the hidden or even absent ground that paradoxically constitutes the arché of any reality. In this way, the traditional Platonic figure of anamnesis has been revitalized in the paradoxical form of an endless remembrance of this forgetfulness. But the fact that the earth’s materiality is resistant to our intelligible faculties seems to suggest that the immaterial is precisely what is untouchable, unavailable (as well as immundus), while matter is the impenetrable limit that marks the point at which there is no longer anything to penetrate. It is the depth of something that does not refer to anything else, but interrupts the series of references, the chain of meanings and information. Within this perspective, materialist thought is a long history of encounters and dispossessions.[14] It is not a question of recovering any foundation, nor of expecting any other, future beginnings: we have to assume that thought is, as Nietzsche realized, heterogenous, nourished by many sources, dis-integrated beyond recognition by the past and its victims.

Deleuze writes in his Desert Islands that “in the ideal of beginning anew there is something that precedes the beginning itself, that takes it up to deepen it and delay it in the passage of time”.[15] Even the Occident, faithful to its own beginning and stable in its own decline, is not a uniform territory. Innumerable are the paths of the earth that have never been taken

*The above text is an excerpt from G. Tusa, “De-limitations. Of Other Earths,” Stasis, Vol. 9(1), 2020, pp. 166-183.


[1] De Martino, Ernesto. La fine del mondo. Contributo all’analisi delle apocalissi culturali. Turin: Einaudi, 2002, p. 11.

[2] Saturnalia 1, 18. Macrobius, Saturnalia. Loeb classical library 510–512, ed. Robert A. Kaster. Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press, 2011.

[3] De Martino, La fine del mondo, p. 11.

[4] Ibid., p. 630.

[5] Badiou, Alain. The Century. Trans. Alberto Toscano. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.

[6] Marder, Michael. Energy Dreams: Of Actuality. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017, p. 116.

[7] Boetzkes, Amanda. Plastic Capitalism. Contemporary Art and the Drive to Waste. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019, p. 8.

[8] Stiegler, Bernard. The Neganthropocene. Ed. and trans. Daniel Ross. London: Open Humanities Press, 2018, p.  105.

[9] Rancière, Jacques. The Future of the Image. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso, 2007, p. 134.

[10] Anders, Günther. “Theses for the Atomic Age.” The Massachusetts Review 3.3: 493–50, 1962, p. 495.

[11] For Yves Citton, we are part of the “Générations collapsonautes,” living in an epoch where everything tells us that our lifestyles are doomed to a coming collapse. Citton, Yves, and Jacopo Rasmi. Générations collapsonautes. Naviguer par temps d’effondrements. Paris: Seuil, 2020.

[12] Badiou, Alain. Logics of Worlds: Being and Event II. Trans. Alberto Toscano. New York: Continuum, 2009, p. 511.

[13] On this topic see Tusa, Giovanbattista. “Infinity of Truths. A Very Short Essay on the End of the Ends”. In Badiou, Alain, and Giovanbattista Tusa. The End. Trans. Robin Mackay, pp. 105–31. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2019.

[14] Recently the art collective Claire Fontaine worked on a materialistic method “referring to the marvel, thaumazein, of the early Greek philosophers who observed nature with an emotional scientific approach, looking for resemblances and connection between every form of life but keeping close to the phenomena that they studied”. Claire Fontaine, “Towards a Theory of Magic Materialism.” Estetica. studi e ricerche 2, 2019, p. 587.

[15] Deleuze, Gilles. Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974. ed. David Lapoujade. Trans. Michael Taormina. New York: Semiotext(e), 2003, p. 14.