Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-6740
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9935



Drawing on a corpus of 100 authentic telephone-mediated interactions from a British credit union, this paper is the first to examine narrative practices in debt collection encounters. It demonstrates that the credit union’s debt collector routinely invites and supports indebted individuals’ narratives using alignment and affiliation. Through a small stories approach, the paper therefore highlights that an organisation’s core values and principles can be seen “in action” in the ways that a professional orients to lay-people’s stories in professional-lay discourse. In this case, the collector’s narrative practices are emblematic of the credit union’s consciously ethical, responsible, and debtor-centric approach to collecting debt. The analysis also shows that indebted individuals perform important interactive work through their narrative accounts in terms of mitigating responsibility for their debt, constructing blameless and acceptable identities, and implicitly encouraging (or explicitly instructing) the collector to affiliate with their stance.

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