Recent Cultural Theory


Concept Map Guidelines – ANTH 441/541 Recent Cultural Theory

Your concept map is a visual representation that shows viewers the interconnections between major and minor theoretical concepts and theorists. This is your opportunity to show what you’ve learned by using relevant course material to create a rich, two-dimensional graphic presentation. You will upload your map to Canvas.

Please read the short Thomson and Licklider (2011) article on concept maps (see attached file) to better understand them and see examples that are highly proficient as well as one still in the developing stage.


You should include concepts (e.g. paradigm, epistemology, structuralism) and theorists we read and read about (e.g. Boas, Mead, Durkheim) throughout the course.  Also, you should include predecessors, contemporaries, successors and influencers (e.g. Hume, Marx, Comte) who are mentioned in lectures and readings as foundational figures. You do not need to include every concept and person ever mentioned. But you should include those that are relevant to the story of cultural theory—you’ll have to use your judgement.

What differences and similarities exist between theories and theorists? What patterns, hierarchies, and linkages emerge within and among them? Your map is a way to answer these questions. Your lectures and readings occasionally mention interconnections—e.g. “this perspective developed as dissatisfaction grew with the XX approach to social theory” or “the limitations of [existing theory] YY were manifest by proponents of [emergent theory] ZZ”—although often they don’t. It is up to you to determine these relationships and use a two-dimensional space to demonstrate associations and ruptures.

An essay is one way to demonstrate linkages between concepts; but think of an essay as a deeper conversation about a narrower topic. The concept map, in contrast, is a thoughtful, but shallower but more complete demonstration of the interrelations between theories and theorists that we cover—like a map of two-dimensional geographical terrain. A concept map doesn’t describe theories or theorists individually (your Theory Mini-Wiki will) but will demonstrate a deep understanding of theories and theorists through the intentional and skillful mapping decisions you make.


The map should creatively arrange colors, symbols, and shapes to display content. Visual elements should be arranged in a coherent, aesthetically pleasing, and evocative manner. You should use design basics—balance/imbalance, distance/proximity, and similar/different colors—to communicate to the viewer. You are not expected to have a graphic designer’s skill or a visual artist’s proficiency using color or proportional geometric aesthetics. (If you do, great! Most of us certainly don’t…) You are expected to demonstrate spatial and relational awareness through the competent use of colors, symbols or labels, figures, and short descriptions or definitions in order to communicate hierarchical relationships.

Concept maps should be created in a digital file format (e.g. PDF or JPEG) and uploaded to Canvas. You may create the map digitally using specialized software, a concept map website, or a standard Word or other program. Alternatively, you may design an analog map using paints, pens, pencils, charcoal, or another implement and then digitize it for upload.