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Beyond the accolades : a postcolonial critique of the foundations of the Ottawa Charter
journal contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by K McPhail-Bell, Bronwyn FredericksBronwyn Fredericks, M Brough
The Ottawa Charter is undeniably of pivotal importance in the history of ideas associated with the establishment of health promotion. There is much to applaud in a Charter which responds to the need to take action on the social and economic determinants of health and which seeks to empower communities to be at the centre of this. Such accolades tend to position the Ottawa Charter as ‘beyond critique’; a taken-for granted ‘given’ in the history of health promotion. In contrast, this presentation argues it is imperative to critically reflect on its ‘manufacture’ and assess the possibility that certain voices have been privileged, and others marginalized. The presentation discusses the re-examination of the 1986 Ottawa Conference including its background papers from a postcolonial standpoint. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) was used as a tool to identify the enactment of power within the production of the Ottawa health promotion discourse, an exercise that draws attention to both the power to ensure the dominant presence of privileged voices at the conference as well as the discursive strategies deployed to ‘naturalize’ the social order of inequality. The analysis showed that the discourse informing the development of the Ottawa Charter strongly reflected Western/colonizer centric worldviews, and actively silenced the possibility of countervailing voices. The Ottawa Charter espouses principles of participation, empowerment and social justice. We question then whether the genesis of the Ottawa Charter lives up to its own principles of practice and conclude that reflexive practice is crucial to health promotion practice and research, which ought to include a preparedness for health promotion to more critically acknowledge its own history.
Number of Pages8
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