Drawing on the case of Seif, a 21-year-old man from an immigrant background, who lives in a housing estate in the suburbs of Paris, this article analyses the role that reading social and human science texts can have in situations of crisis or vulnerability. In the face of an intense family conflict, Seif made this reading into a weapon to understand his situation and to try and save both himself and his family. This also had an impact on his social relationships and his way of being in the world. Through this case study we seek to explore the relationship between human sciences and individual readers who are looking for solutions to their problems in the words and ideas they encounter in these texts. In “situations of emergency”, they can use this knowledge as a veritable guide to existence, even as this usage simultaneously demonstrates the individualisation of social problems.
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