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Oriana Quaglietta Bernal successfully defends her doctoral thesis

Oriana Quaglietta Bernal in the Department kitchen with some of her colleagues and the external discussant.

On Friday, 21 October, Oriana Quaglietta Bernal successfully defended her doctoral thesis, "In Her Words: Women's Accounts of Managing Drug-related Risk, Pleasure, and Stigma in Sweden".

For the past five years, Oriana Quaglietta Bernal studied why women in Sweden start, continue, and sometimes stop using drugs. Her thesis explores female drug experiences and what they mean to the users; how users conceptualise drug-related risk, pleasure and stigma; and how they navigate settings involving illegal drugs. Quaglietta Bernal based her thesis on the oral and written accounts of 26 women with ongoing or previous drug use in Sweden.

In her analysis of the women's accounts, Quaglietta Bernal departs from the feminist criminological understanding that biological and social gender is central to how people live and behave. She also applies an intersectional perspective, which "rejects the notion of a single, unitary experience for all women and instead considers that human experience is shaped by positioning at the intersection of different and interlocking dimensions of inequality, such as sexism, classism, racism, and so forth."

Oriana Quaglietta Bernal sitting by a table
Oriana Quaglietta Bernal discusses her thesis during the defence.

The women in the study considered drugs pleasurable and meaningful. Still, they were mindful of the potential risks that can arise in drug cultures and the social and legal problems that illegal drug use can imply. To cope, the women used varying strategies to mitigate the risks. Still, the women had conflicting experiences acting on the drug market and using drugs, feeling empowered and disempowered, capable and incapable, worthy and unworthy of respect. "Ultimately, respondents' accounts show that they were simply doing what they could to create meaningful lives for themselves with the resources available to them," Quaglietta Bernal writes.

"This is a very well-written piece of work, and it was a joy to read. It's an important work by an emergent scholar," said the external reviewer, senior lecturer Jennifer Fleetwood of the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London. "In her thesis, Oriana wants to challenge stereotypes of drug-involved women as pathological, powerless and sexualised objects, and I think she does this very well."

Jennifer Fleetwood
Jennifer Fleetwood gives her summary of Oriana Quaglietta Bernal's thesis.

The examining committee agreed with Dr Fleetwood and unanimously passed Quaglietta Bernal's thesis. "We were very impressed by your work, in particular your fabulous writing, and your analysis of course," said the internal committee member Associate Professor Sébastien Tutenges, Department of Sociology, Lund University.