Narrative practices in debt collection encounters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-195
Number of pages23
JournalNarrative Inquiry
Issue number1
Early online date27 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Available under the CC BY 4.0 license. © John Benjamins Publishing Company

Funding: This research was funded by Research England (E3 Fund). The data underpinning this article
was collected during an Economic and Social Research Council funded studentship at the University of Nottingham [grant number ES/J500100/1]


  • Debt collection
  • narrative research
  • organisational research
  • identity construction


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