Karen Marrero

Karen Marrero

Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies & Interim Director of Public History


313-577-6987 (fax)


3145 Faculty/Administration Building

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Karen Marrero

Karen Marrero researches, writes and teaches early North American and Indigenous history. Her book "Detroit's Hidden Channels: The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century" (Michigan State University Press & University of Manitoba Press, 2020) explores the means by which seventeenth and eighteenth-century Indigenous and French kin networks exploited Detroit’s status as a “transitional location” and diplomatic center to divert and revalue resources and amass political, economic and cultural prestige.

These families understood what European imperial agents often failed to fully appreciate, that at Detroit, a site occupied by multiple Indigenous nations, economic and political matters resonated across the Great Lakes. Marrero's current project connects Indigenous, French- and Anglo-Canadian and American communities of the Michigan/Upper Canada border to events at the Texas/Mexico/U.S. borderland and in Australia from the 1820s to 1850s, an era of increasing efforts by Euro-imperial governments to enact race-based policies.

Research interest(s)/area of expertise

  • Early North America

  • Native America and indigenous peoples

  • Transnational and borderlands history

  • Comparative U.S./Canada

  • Women and gender

  • Early modern Atlantic world

  • Memory, narrative, and the nature of historical truth and authenticity


  • Ph.D., History, Yale University, 2011
  • M.Phil., History, Yale University, 2004
  • M.A., History, Yale University, 2003
  • M.A., History (with Archival Studies concentration), University of Windsor, 2000
  • M.A., English Language and Literature, University of Windsor, 1994
  • B.A., English Language and Literature, University of Windsor, 1988

Awards and grants

  • Michigan Humanities Grant, Great Michigan Stories, "20th Century Indigenous Michigan: An Oral Tradition," 2023-2024

  • Councillor, Teaching Division, American Historical Association, 2022-2025

  • Associate, L. R. Wilson Institute for Canadian History, McMaster University, 2020-2025

  • Member, Michigan USA 250th Committee, 2022-2023

  • Career Development Chair Award, Wayne State University, 2022-2023

  • Board of Governors Faculty Recognition Award, Wayne State University, 2021

  • Committee on Canadian Studies, The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University, 2020-

  • College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, Wayne State University, 2020

  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. Faculty Mentoring Fellow, 2016-2017

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar Fellowship for "Bridging National Borders in North America" Newberry Library, 2014

  • Earhart Foundation on American History Post-Doctoral Fellowship, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, 2012

Selected publications

  • Karen Marrero, Detroit's Hidden Channels: The Power of French-Indigenous Families in the Eighteenth Century (Lansing: Michigan State University Press & Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2020)
  • Guillaume Teasdale and Karen Marrero, "“From Voyageurs to Emigrants: Leaving the St. Lawrence Valley for the Detroit River Borderland, 1796-1846.” In French Connections: Cultural Mobility in North America and the Atlantic World. Eds. Robert Englebert and Andrew Wegmann (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2020). 170-192
  •  Karen Marrero, "'Borders Thick and Foggy': Mobility, Community, and Nation in a Northern Indigenous Region." In Warring for America: Cultural Contests in the Era of 1812. Eds. Nicole Eustace and Fredrika J. Teute. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017). 419-444
  • Karen Marrero, “Women at the Crossroads: Trade, Mobility, and Power in Early French America and Detroit.” In Women in Early America: Transnational Histories, Rethinking Master Narratives. Ed. Thomas Foster. (New York: New York University Press, 2015). 159-185
  • Karen Marrero, “On the Edge of the West: The Roots and Routes of Detroit’s Urban Eighteenth Century.” In Frontier Cities: Encounters at the Crossroads of Empire. Eds. Jay Gitlin, Barbara Berglund, and Adam Arenson. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). 66-87

Courses taught by Karen Marrero

Fall Term 2023

Winter Term 2023

Winter Term 2022