UMass Boston

Maria John

Assistant Professor
McCormack Hall Floor 04


Maria John received her PhD in History from Columbia University. Before joining the History Department at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2017, she was an Indigenous Studies Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the American Studies Department at Wesleyan University from 2016-2017. Her research focuses on 20th-century Indigenous politics in the U.S. and Australia, with a focus on urban communities and health activism.

Area of Expertise

Comparative histories of settler colonialism, 20th-century urban Indigenous histories (especially in the U.S. and Australia), social and political histories of health and health care, histories of health activism, and histories of Indigenous sovereignty.


PhD, (History) Columbia University, New York City, USA

MA/MPhil (History) Columbia University, New York City, USA

MA (History) Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

BA (History/Politics) Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information

Assistant Professor John's book project, Sovereign Bodies: Urban Indigenous Health Activism in the United States and Australia, 1950-2000, is a comparative history of urban Indigenous community-controlled health clinics in the U.S. and Australia. It considers these community-controlled health services as key activist-led responses to the settler colonial politics of non-recognition and argues that they served as foundational sites for the realization of non-territorial forms of Indigenous sovereignty. In turn, her work considers how the politics of Indigenous sovereignty has been expressed in the 20th-century through a politics of the body, and especially bodily health.

At UMass Boston, Professor John serves as the director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) Program. NAIS offers an undergraduate interdisciplinary minor that is open to all students at UMass Boston. In her teaching for the History Department and for NAIS, Professor John offers classes on Native American and Indigenous studies, comparative settler colonialism, Native American social and political history, histories of Indigenous health, Oral History, and Native American history in the public sphere.

Beyond the university, she has also been an active participant in several teaching-outreach initiatives, including her work on a 4-year project for K-12 programs and teachers coordinating a supplemental history program for middle schools across the Bronx and Manhattan in New York City; her ongoing work with a collective of scholars, artists, and activists for the East of East project of the South El Monte Arts Posse to integrate ethnic studies into middle and high schools in Southern California; and in fall 2016, her work with the NYC Stands with Standing Rock Collective, to create the #StandingwithStandingRock digital syllabus.

Her research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society Philips Fund for Native American Research; The Teagle Foundation for Liberal Arts Education; The National Library of Australia; and the Anti-Discrimination Center, New York City.