The attempt to solve a problem without understanding the history of how and why it emerged is doomed to fail.

Currently, free and informed political decision making is severely endangered by disinformation, terrorist violence and secret influence operations, leading to democratic crises around the world. Because today’s evolving global challenges are complex and interconnected during this time of fractious and transforming geopolitics, they cannot be analyzed as isolated components.

In aggregate, Hänni’s research analyzes the historical role and mechanics of socio-political manipulation and responses to these challenges. This includes understanding the relationship between influence through mass media, the rise of transnational political violence, and the emergence of informal international governance networks.

Research Areas


The world of intelligence services is barely visible to most people, yet it has profound influence on politics and society. Hänni’s work combines historical research with the analysis of current issues to illuminate the role played by intelligence services. By shining a light onto key aspects of covert intelligence practices, Hänni aims to increase the understanding of the functioning and significance of intelligence services among a broader group of stakeholders and support the democratization of intelligence governance.


Communities around the world are targets of propaganda and disinformation at a massive scale, impeding informed political participation and political agency. Hänni seeks to empower citizens by making knowledge about strategies, tactics, and motives behind past and present propaganda campaigns publicly accessible. Understanding these intentionally manipulative practices is the first step to building social resilience against disinformation and addressing the structural problem of an increasingly broken information ecosystem.

Political Violence

Public dialogue around “terrorism” is fundamentally flawed, as well as strategically manipulated by parties with political imperatives and economic interests. Militarized counter-terrorism efforts are not only often ineffective, but in fact frequently serve to exacerbate existing conflicts. Hänni is interested in raising awareness to the historical emergence of these practices in order to helping design counter-terrorism initiatives that enhance the long-term security, strength and prosperity of directly impacted communities.

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