The ideas of heroes and superheroes have, over the past few years, increasingly crept into mainstream consciousness with the help of giant pop culture franchises. As we are living through a historical year of witnessing and experiencing the effect of the global pandemic, wave of social justice movements, environmental damages, and the oft-harrowing stories of human migrations, the thought of a ‘superhuman’ or a deified figure to come and save the day or to correct the wrongs becomes even more appealing.

But there is a specific and limited imagining of who gets to be seen as heroes and who gets cast into the roles of ‘background characters’. And this construction of historical narratives often puts the spotlight on the elite with their contributions deemed important and objective, while communities whose work and voices considered not a fit for the criteria of this construct get erased or forgotten and, eventually, become nearly or even non-existent in the larger canon.

In the context of world literature, the deconstruction of this narrative allows for a shift in focus, and to start questioning what, which, and whose story and history gets overlooked. How do personal accounts and memories get weaved into a point in time in history? Who are the underrepresented groups whose voices have been largely unheard and how do they make themselves visible? And, is it still useful in trying to redefine what hero means, or is the idea too archaic? The festival aims to be a space to further explore the answers to these questions.

It is also important to remember that chaos and destruction also bring an opportunity to rebuild a new world. And in doing so, how would we imagine the future or even the near future, especially when technologies can sometimes exacerbate inequalities that have already been there instead of addressing them? What are the possibilities?

Jakarta International Literary Festival wants to be an open space that dares to expand the threshold of potential in being a part of a collective effort to recreate a global literary landscape that is more accessible, diverse, and equal.