Oriana Quaglietta Bernal – Eurocrim 2020

Meaning-making in Women’s Involvement with Drugs in Sweden

Oriana Quaglietta Bernal, Lund University. Photo: Private.

Oriana Quaglietta Bernal, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Lund University

Abstract of paper presented at Eurocrim 2020:
The way people articulate their experiences can give us interesting insights into how they have made sense of them, beyond what the mere content can express. These articulations can also shed light on the meanings and morals implicit in these recountings, as well as evaluations of these meanings, and suggest ways forward: ‘[o]ur self-stories condition what we will do tomorrow because whatever tomorrow brings, our responses must somehow cohere with the storied identity generated thus far’ (Presser & Sandberg, 2015a: 1). Furthermore, these stories also offer specific windows into self-conceptualisations of agency and power.

Drawing on material gathered for my doctoral dissertation on women’s involvement with drugs in Sweden, this paper aims to understand how my participants have framed their experiences with drugs and what meanings they have attributed to their experiences. Traditionally, in the relevant literature, women’s involvement with drugs is often characterised by a ‘volition vs victimisation’ dichotomy (Miller, 2001), but my project aims to go beyond such facile oversimplifications by showing how women’s experiences actually belong on a spectrum between these two poles.

This is to say that women can be both powerful and powerless in different ways and at different moments in their lives: narratives, therefore, can be important ways for women to both “set the record straight” in an interview setting and as meaning-processing and meaning-creating devices.