Professor Barba's research focuses on cross-cultural violence and the making of identity in North America. Barba's current project connects multiple historical fields — including the history of the North American West, United States-Mexico Borderlands history, the history of the South, Native-American history, and African Diaspora studies — to explore how the lives, ideologies, and institutions of Hispanic, Comanche, and Anglo-American slaving peoples came to intersect and overlap in the geographical location eventually known as Texas. Through his research, Barba seeks to understand how violence resonated on both personal and societal — even cross-community — levels.
More generally, Barba is interested in the broad spectrum of experiences of Native and African-descended people in North America. Barba always seeks to highlight the fact that there has never been a single, monolithic "Black experience" - just as there is no such thing as a monolithic "Native-American experience." Although core historical forces certainly undergirded the distinct experiences of African-descended and Native people in the Americas, how such diverse communities interpreted, reacted to, and shaped their experiences varied according to many unique contextual factors. Barba believes that it is through investigation of such historical contexts that we can better understand the full sweep of North American history.