Adam Seth Litwin, associate professor of labor relations, law and history in the ILR School, will serve as the J. William Fulbright Visiting Professor of Work and Organizational studies at the University of Sydney next academic year, thanks to a U.S. Fulbright Scholar Program grant.
Litwin will visit workplaces across Australia, studying the impact of the present wave of technological change on work and workers.
“I relish few professional responsibilities more than visiting actual workplaces and speaking to the people who populate them,” Litwin said. “One of my earliest memories is visiting my grandfather at the neighborhood ‘superette’ he owned in Camden, New Jersey.”
As a boy, Litwin would watch the cashiers, delivery drivers and shelf-stockers.
“I loved asking them questions about what they did and why,” he said. “I thought I wanted to be a grocer when I grew up.”
Litwin later came to realize it wasn’t the substance of that work that interested him; it was the observation and analysis of work in general that commanded his attention. He turned that curiosity into a career, studying workplaces in the U.S., Great Britain and Canada.
“That this fellowship will provide me the opportunity to deepen my firsthand knowledge of Australian workplaces is what drew me to the Fulbright in the first place,” he said.
Litwin will study how new technologies are being used in the workplace and analyze the connections between technological change, power and economic risk in the employment relationship.
During his visiting professorship, Litwin will hold an eight-month residence at the University of Sydney, the institutional home for the Journal of Industrial Relations.
“The field of industrial relations is thriving in Australia,” said Litwin, who serves on the journal’s editorial board. “While I will no doubt miss my ILR students and colleagues while I’m away, I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
When he returns, Litwin hopes to begin writing a book on the ways recent technological changes have reshaped the power structure inherent to the employment relationship. He suspects this reshaping has led to some employers’ efforts to shift downside economic risk away from themselves.
The Fulbright Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, awards approximately 8,000 grants annually to U.S. students, foreign students, U.S. scholars, visiting scholars, teachers and professionals.
Julie Greco is a communications specialist with the ILR School.