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Frederico Freitas

Associate Professor

Department of History

Withers Hall 251

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I am a native of São Paulo, Brazil, where I worked for years as an art director doing graphic design and motion graphics. I had always been interested in history and geography, which led me to earn a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of São Paulo. My engagement with both historical inquiry and visual communication brought me to pursue graduate education in digital humanities. I moved to the United States to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in Latin American History at Stanford University, where I used my skills as an art director to explore new visual forms of historical narratives through digital media.

I have been at NC State since 2016, where I am an associate professor of digital and Latin American history at NC State and a core member of the Visual Narrative cluster.

I am on research leave (scholarly reappointment) during the 2023-2024 academic year.

Teaching and Research Interests

My research deals with the history of Latin America— especially Brazil—in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I focus on the intersection between environment and society, with a particular interest in the spatial and social implications of environmental policies.

My current book project, titled Concrete Tropics: An Environmental History of Brazil’s Modernist Capital, is an environmental history of Brasília, the modernist capital city built by Brazil in the 1950s. The book covers a century of history of the city, from the initial mapping of a planned inland capital in the 1890s through its construction in the 1950s and continuing to the 1990s. As a modernist city designed upon utopian ideals, Brasília was to provide a novel urban environment to foster the birth of a modern society. And yet, the city had to contend with the reality of the nature supporting its existence. Concrete Tropics shows how Brasília and the society it created are the products of not only the successes and failures of modernist planning but also the environmental processes that shaped the city’s construction.

My first book is an environmental history of the border between Brazil and Argentina in the twentieth century and the creation of the iconic national parks of Iguaçu (in Brazil) and Iguazú (in Argentina), two of the oldest and most visited protected areas in Latin America. The book Nationalizing Nature: Iguazu Falls and National Parks at the Brazil-Argentina Border—was published by Cambridge University Press in March 2021. The book was the winner of the Warren Dean Memorial Prize (Conference on Latin American History) as the most significant work on the history of Brazil, received an honorable mention in the Bryce Wood Book Award (Latin American Studies Association) as an outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English, and an honorable mention in the Sérgio Buarque de Holanda Prize (Latin American Studies Association’s Brazil Section) for the best book in the social sciences on Brazil.

I am a member of the Visual Narratives cluster, a project launched by the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Cluster Program to foster interdisciplinary collaboration between engineering and humanities disciplines. My work with the cluster includes applying machine learning and computer vision to assess urban change during economic downturns.

At NC State, I teach courses on Latin American history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, US-Latin American relations, Latin American urban history, and on the theory and methods of digital history and spatial history. I also plan to introduce courses on the history of Brazil. I am interested in topics such as modern environmental history, policymaking, and state formation, urban studies, transnational and borderlands history, and animal studies, as well as historical GIS, network analysis, design, and visualization.


Concrete Tropics: An Environmental History of Brazil’s Modernist Capital. As part of my second book project, I am using historical remote sensing to study the environmental and spatial processes that shaped Brasília, the capital of Brazil, between 1960 and the present. I am currently working to update a mapping visualization of land use in and around Brasília since the 1970s.

The Interior: Rethinking Brazilian History from the Inside. The Interior is an edited volume that aims to re-examine Brazilian history from the inside, a framework that we call interior history. Seeking to invert the conceptual and geographic boundaries often used to study the history of Brazil—and also of Latin America more broadly—the book will show how the people and spaces of the interior have been central to the development of national identities, politics, economy, and culture. The book will be out with to University of Texas Press in 2024.

Urban Panorama is a project developed with colleagues at the Visual Narrative cluster. We are testing methods to assess urban change by introducing two novel elements in the craft of urban historians: 1) the use of images of streetscapes as primary sources and 2) the use of computer vision and machine learning in the analysis of these images. See more information here.

Funded Research

National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship – 2019-2020

Non-laboratory Scholarship/Research Support Program (NSRP) (co-PI), North Carolina State University – 2019 and 2020.

DELTA Blended Learning Grant (co-PI), North Carolina State University – 2017-2018

For a complete list, see my CV.


Books (peer-reviewed)

Nationalizing Nature: Iguazu Falls and National Parks at the Brazil-Argentina Border. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

Big Water: The making of the borderlands between Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Co-edited with Jake Blanc. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2018.

Articles and chapters (peer-reviewed)

“Characterizing the Perception of Urban Spaces from Visual Analytics of Street-Level Imagery.” Co-authored with Berreth, Chen, and Jhala. AI & Society, (Dec 2022).

Hunters, Rangers, Cougars, and Jaguars: human and nonhuman territories at the Argentine-Brazilian border, 1960s-1980s.HCSM 28, Supl. (Dec, 2021): 59-79.

“Protected Areas in Brazil: History and Current Status.” In The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2021.

“Conservation frontier: The creation of protected areas in the Brazilian Amazonia.” In Frontiers of Development in the Amazon: Riches, Risks, and Resistances. Edited by Antonio Ioris et al. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2020, 51-79.

“Terras públicas e política de conservação da natureza: o caos fundiário na formação do Parque Nacional do Iguaçu.” In História Ambiental: Natureza, Sociedade, Fronteira, volume 3. Edited by José Augusto Drummond et al. Rio de Janeiro: Garamond, 2020, 227-252.

“Argentinizing the Border: Conservation and Colonization in the Iguazú National Park, 1890s-1950s.” Individual contribution to the Big Water volume, 2018, 105-128.

“Ordering the Borderland: Settlement and Removal in the Iguaçu National Park, Brazil, 1940s-1970s.” In The Nature State: Rethinking the History of Conservation. Edited by Hardenberg et al. New York: Routledge, 2017, 158-175.

“A Park for the Borderlands: The Creation of the Iguaçu National Park in Southern Brazil, 1880-1940.” HIb: Revista de Historia Iberoamericana 7, no. 2 (2014): 65-88.

For a complete list of publications, see my CV.

Graduate Advising

I am interested in working with students in Latin American history, digital humanities, spatial and urban history, and environmental history.

Office Hours

  • Mon: 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • Wed: 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Or By Appointment


Ph.D. History Stanford University 2016

M.A. History Stanford University 2011

B.A. History University of São Paulo 2008