“History gets a really bad rap by most people today,” Dr. Holly Karibo says with a wry smile as she sits in Café Libro in the Edmon Low Library. “It’s a shame that most people get talked out of it by the time they get to college.”
Karibo, assistant professor of history at Oklahoma State University, never was talked out of it and, in fact, her personal history helped inform her professional career. Moving to Ontario from Detroit, Michigan brought out the unique relationship that exists between the U.S. and Canada, especially in the border towns of the great Lakes region, providing the basis for Karibo’s first book Sin City North: Sex, Drugs and Citizenship in the Detroit-Windsor Borderland. The book, which won the 2016 State History Award for University Press Books, highlights a history of Detroit that almost mirrors a department of Tourism, as the illicit economies and black markets that developed in the border towns centered around tourism, leisure, and economy; just not the kind that are talked about in a town hall meeting.
“I really wanted to highlight the conversations that can be had there, and to tell the story of belonging,” Karibo says, passion evident in her smiling expression. “Who defines who or what is a valuable member of the community? What is it that differentiates between a native and an immigrant? These are questions that are being brought up every day, especially in today’s political environment.”
Karibo says her love of history was fostered from a young age. “I had great teachers in high school: Teachers who made me think about history in ways I didn’t think could apply to these situations.”
It is that same thinking she has tried to communicate, in both her writing and in her class. “Regardless of what you want to do with your life, teaching or otherwise,” she says, “history allows you to explore a wide variety of topics across campus and beyond. The skills a history degree teaches pair effortlessly with other interests: The ability to think critically, to gather and evaluate evidence on any particular topic, and the ability to frame your argument, both in public speaking and in written form. It equips and gives you the tools to pursue what you want out of life.”