Humphrey's father was the biologist Conrad H. Waddington. Her mother was her father's second wife, Margaret Justin Blanco White (daughter of the writer Amber Reeves); she has a younger sister the mathematician Dusa McDuff, and an elder half-brother, the physicist C. Jake Waddington, by her father's first marriage.
Humphrey received her BA in Social Anthropology from Girton College, Cambridge. Her PhD, completed in 1973, was entitled Magical Drawings in the Religion of the Buryat. She received the Rivers Memorial Medal in 1999, and, in 2003, an Honorary Doctorate from the National University of Mongolia.
In 1967, Caroline Waddington married Nicholas Humphrey; they had no children and divorced in 1977. In 1986, she married Martin Rees, and became Lady Rees after her husband was appointed a Knight Bachelor in 1992.
Research and Positions
Humphrey has conducted extensive research in Siberia, Nepal, India, Mongolia, China (Inner Mongolia), Uzbekistan and Ukraine. In 1966, she was one of the first anthropologists from a western country to be allowed to do fieldwork in the USSR. Her PhD (1973) focussed on Buryat religious iconography, and ensuing research topics have included Soviet collective farms, the farming economy in India and Tibet, Jainist culture in India, and environmental and cultural conservation in Inner Asia.
Between 1971 and 1978, she undertook research and official fellowships at Girton College, Cambridge and at the Scott Polar Research Institute. From 1978 to 1983 she lectured at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, before becoming a Director of Studies in Archaeology and Anthropology in 1984-89, and 1992-96. Humphrey has held the posts of University Reader in Asian Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 1995–98; University Professor of Asian Anthropology, 1998–2006; Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, 2000; and Rausing Professorship of Collaborative Anthropology, 2006–10.
She co-founded the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU) in 1986 at Cambridge. She retired from her post as Sigrid Rausing Professor of Collaborative Anthropology at the University of Cambridge to become Voluntary Research Director of MIASU in October 2010.
She has been a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge since 1978. In 2010, she completed the manuscript of a monograph, jointly authored with Hurelbaatar Ujeed, entitled A Monastery in Time: the Making of Mongolian Buddhism. The book was the culmination of much fieldwork and visits, from 1995, to Mergen Monastery in the Urad region of Inner Mongolia (China), where a distinctive form of Mongolian-language Buddhism has been upheld since the 18th century.
- Karl Marx Collective: Economy, Society and Religion in a Siberian Collective Farm [Staley Prize, School of American Research] (1983)
- (ed. with Michael Carrithers) The Assembly of Listeners: Jains in Society (1991)
- (ed. with Stephen Hugh-Jones) Barter, Exchange and Value (1992)
- (ed. with Nicholas Thomas) Shamanism, History and the State (1994)
- (with James Laidlaw) The Archetypal Actions of Ritual, illustrated by the Jain rite of worship (1994)
- (with Urgunge Onon) Shamans and Elders: Experience, Knowledge and Power among the Daur Mongols (1996)
- (ed. with David Sneath) Culture and Environment in Inner Asia (1996)
- (with Piers Vitebsky) Sacred Architecture (1997) [This is a popular work]
- Marx Went Away, but Karl Stayed Behind (1998)
- (with David Sneath) The End of Nomadism? Society, the State and the Environment in Inner Asia (1999)
- (ed. with A. Tulokhonov) Kul'tura i Priroda vo Vnutrenneyi Azii (Culture and Environment in Inner Asia, in Russian) (2001)
- (ed. with David Sneath) Dotugadu Aziiya-yin Soyol kiged Baigal Orchim (Environment and Culture of Inner Asia, in Mongolian) (2002)
- The Unmaking of Soviet Life: Everyday Economies After Socialism [Heldt Prize] (2002)
- (ed. with Katherine Verdery) Property in Question: Value Transformation in the Global Economy (2004)
- (ed. with Catherine Alexander and Victor Buchli) Urban Life in Post-Soviet Central Asia (2007)
- (with Hurelbaatar Ujeed) A Monastery in Time: The Making of Mongolian Buddhism" [Association for Asian Studies: E. Gene Smith Book Prize
- Robertson, Alan. 1977. Conrad Hal Waddington. 8 November 1905 — 26 September 1975. Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 23, 575-622; accessed 31 August 2014.
- List of recipients of Rivers Memorial medal; accessed 31 August 2014.
- Caroline Humphrey profile Archived 12 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine., cam.ac.uk; accessed 31 August 2014.
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
- Inner Asia Research: Caroline Humphrey, innerasiaresearch.org; accessed 31 August 2014.
- Inner Asia Research: Caroline Humphrey's curriculum vitae, innerasiaresearch.org; accessed 31 August 2014.
- Caroline Humphrey interview with Alan Macfarlane, alanmacfarlane.com, 5 August 2010; accessed 31 August 2014.